Ip Man II, directed by the great and powerful Wilson Yip, is a continuation of the legendary saga of Ip Man – the grandmaster of the martial art form Wing Chun. In this installment, Ip Man (played by Donnie Yen) settles in colonial Hong Kong and seeks to popularize Wing Chun among the locals by opening up a school. However, he is faced with multiple hurdles before he can do this, primarily the wrath of other martial arts practitioners in the city. At the same time, the British seek to establish their physical superiority over the Chinese by challenging any local to take down “The Tornado”; a buff and cocky boxer (played by Darren Shahlavi).
Sequels are, more often than not, less superior than the original and Ip Man II is no exception. The stakes in this film were far less severe than its predecessor. In Ip Man, our protagonist was literally fighting for his life against the Japanese, so that he could put food on the table for his family. His house was surrendered, he was living under poverty and facing constant oppression from the Japanese. In contrast, the only thing Ip was really fighting for in this movie was permission to open up a new martial arts school. Although he was still living in a society that was oppressed, he was never in any life or death situation.
Ip also underwent little to no character development in this movie – he was essentially the same person that we saw in the end of the previous film. My expectation was that he would’ve either refined his martial arts skills or outlook on certain aspects of life (given that he had he almost died in the previous movie), but sadly neither of these expectations were fulfilled. Other disappointments in Ip Man II include all the Caucasian characters. They were poorly written and made to look like jokes. A few of them were even made attempts to speak in Cantonese, but the end-product was a unintentionally laughable and cheesy delivery of lines.
The finale of the film takes place inside a boxing ring where “The Tornado” and Ip Man square off against each other. The fight was really really odd to watch and unfair in many regards. Aside from the obvious age and physique differences between the two fighters, “The Tornado” used boxing gloves and jaw guards for the whole match, while Ip Man only used his bare fists. Any boxing enthusiast knows that the larger surface area of the boxing glove spreads the force of punches thereby diminishing the “impact” per square inch. Another inequality favoring Ip Man was that he frequently used kicks to submit his opponent while “The Tornado” only used straight punches.
The only real positive thing I can say about this movie were its other action sequences. Though they were more often very over-the-top and contained more cuts than desirable, they were also well choreographed and creative. The fight sequence between Ip Man and Master Hung Chun on a table-top was such a joy to watch. But overall, Ip Man 2 is by all means an inferior sequel to Ip Man. It lacks character development, high stakes and a satisfying final fight sequence.