Ip Man 2

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Ip Man 2

Although he's best known in the West for schooling Bruce Lee in the art of Wing Chun--style kung fu, the martial-arts master Ip Man originally made his name as an unlikely symbol of Chinese anti-imperialist resistance---at least according to director Wilson Yip. Man's career as a revolutionary hero, as opposed to a wizened old sage, was the focus of Yip's 2008 semispeculative biopic. Though a preteen Lee appears briefly, this sequel once again turns the spotlight on a younger, unprepossessing Ip (Yen), who must postpone petty quarrels to fight a larger enemy. The difference this time is who's on the receiving end of those fists of fury: Instead of WWII-era Japanese, Ip must now battle the British in postwar Hong Kong.

Avoiding some of the first film's self-serious solemnity, Ip Man 2 teems with fluid, fleet action sequences---notably a royal rumble conducted atop a wobbly table, and the thrillingly odd sight of Ip using kung fu to fight a British heavyweight champ in the boxing ring. It's too bad, however, that the caricatures of the English as one-note villains, cavalier treatment of key plot points---that feud with rival sifu Sammo Hung sure got resolved fast!---and a final round of humanist speechifying diminish the proceedings to such a detrimental degree. Nonetheless, Yip's chop-socky sequel does manage to up the (admittedly modest) ante of the original.

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By: Andrew Schenker

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