Well Go Usa // 2010 // 108 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 25th, 2011
Behind every great martial artist lies a teacher.
I'll be up front right now: I have no clue what all the fuss is about this movie. It's terrible.
Donnie Yen (Flashpoint) is Ip Man, a kung-fu grandmaster who introduced the fighting style of Wing Chun to the masses and most notably taught a young kid named Bruce Lee how to beat the living hell out of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
The sequel finds Ip Man in Hong Kong, looking to support his family and make a name for himself by teaching his brand of kung-fu. He slowly builds up a school, but eventually comes into conflict with a rival master (Sammo Hung, Wushu).
Their antagonism is brief, thanks to the appearance of a violent, loud-mouthed and, of course, racist Western boxer named Twister. And so the scene is set for a big fight between the West and the East to see whose fighting style is awesomer and maybe, just maybe, if you're lucky you'll get a lecture on geopolitics and the human spirit.
What I am missing here? Currently, Ip Man 2 is logging in overwhelmingly positive percentages on review aggregate sites. Perusing the fawning reviews, I find myself at a loss. You won't find a bigger fan of Donnie Yen than me; in fact, ever since Tony Jaa ceased being interested in making entertaining action films, Yen has assumed the my number one ranking for Most Bad-Ass Overseas Action Star. Some of my all-time favorite fight scenes include Donnie Yen. Whether it's the blistering alley fight in Kill Zone or the standard-setting, 20-minute epic finale in Flashpoint, Yen repeatedly shows why he's one of the genre's biggest stars.
Alas, his stratospheric talent is wasted in this, a clichéd and often time laughably lame, kung-fu excursion that relies heavily on overused genre tropes, nonsensical set-pieces and ridiculous stereotypes. My laundry list:
Westerners are racist jackasses
Sure, that might apply to some of us, but the way the filmmakers pigeonhole the British horde in Ip Man 2 would be insulting if it wasn't so moronic. Much like the way retired Marines are all psychos in Avatar, anyone with a British accent is an ignorant imperialist who would like nothing more than to see a Chinese guy get his face caved in by a brutish thug boxer. All is not lost because...
...they are enlightened by a cornball speech
Following his big fight, Ip Man delivers a brief, yet thoroughly naïve and saccharine monologue about how everyone is entitled to dignity or something and this immediately transforms the sneering, hostile pale-faced crowd into a pack of bleeding hearts. How trifling is it? There's a staggered, standing slow-clap.
Competing kung fu teachers settle jurisdictional conflicts by fighting on
a kitchen table
In order to prove his brand's worth, Ip Man is forced to engage in a series of bouts with the other teachers in the area. For some reason they do this on a shaky round table. Oh, I know the reason: it's for an innovative fight scene, no matter how goofy it looks or how poorly it fits into what is otherwise a grounded, earth-based physics action movie.
By the way, the real Ip Man was a coke-head
In the movie, he's a noble beacon of truth and virtue and sets up his school to support his family. In real life, Ip Man needed the tuition to fuel his expensive opium habit.
Also, this is totally Rocky 4
An underdog boxer who watches his best friend get killed in the ring by a hulking foreign interloper and eventually engages in a grueling bout that transcends boxing and becomes a statement on ideology, followed by a contrived speech about learning from the example of two men beating the snot out of each other and setting aside cultural differences to get along with each other. Yep, all that's missing is Brigitte Nielsen and a killer flat-top.
The collector's edition comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the film. The 2.35:1, 1080p (MPE-4 AVC encoded) transfer is a top performer, putting forward a clean, well-detailed look at period Hong Kong. The production design is gorgeous and the video quality teases out the multitude of visual layers. When the action kicks in, the enhanced clarity makes the mayhem easy to follow. Audio is clean and hard-hitting, featuring DTS-HD Master Audio tracks in Cantonese, Mandarin and English. The extras are spread, rather inconveniently, over the Blu-ray and DVD: behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, a shooting diary and interviews.
To be fair, there's a pretty awesome fight scene in the village square. It's not enough to compensate for the rest of the film's shortcomings, though.
Donnie Yen is the man, but he's trapped in a steaming bowl of chicken foot soup here.
Guilty. I take no pleasure in writing that.
Review content copyright © 2011 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Well Go Usa
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Cantonese)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Mandarin)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Cantonese)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Mandarin)
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Shooting Diary
* DVD Copy