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Ip Man 2 tells the story of Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man and his life in Hong Kong after fleeing Foshan, China from Japanese occupation during the Sino-Japanese War. You might ask yourself though who is this Ip Man? Aside from being a martial arts expert, his connection to pop culture is through his pupil, Bruce Lee.

Set against the 1950’s backdrop of British occupied Hong Kong, Ip Man and his family attempt to start a new life by setting up a Wing Chun school. Things prove to be difficult though with students being hard to come by because Ip had no reputation in the area. As his luck finally begins to turn around, he ends up dealing with other established martial art schools that expect him to prove himself first and pay tribute before he can set up shop.

Meanwhile Ip also comes to face British star boxer Taylor “The Twister” Milos, who displays stereotypical superiority complex against the Chinese. I won’t divulge whether Ip Man triumphs or not, but the fight is certainly one of the highlights of the film.

The movie’s plotline is a rather simple yet moving, with one man trying to start a new life despite encountering obstacle after obstacle. The film also sheds light on circumstances facing the Chinese in Hong Kong under British colonial rule. There was deep racism towards them and their martial arts that led to the infamous boxing match.

Donnie Yen as Ip Man displays his talent in martial arts choreography along with Sammo Hung. In one scene Ip Man battles Hung’s character, Hung Chum-nam, on top of a rickety old wooden table where the goal was to get the other person to touch the floor first. Yen and Hung show incredible agility and finesse in their battle but of course there is the expected cheesiness in music and drama that I’ve come to expect from Chinese martial art films. Acting-wise the two men do a good job in making their characters believable and relatable; Yen’s Ip Man as the morally upright teacher whose kindness at times hinders the well being of his family and Hung, whom at first seems to be a tough mafia boss type turns out to respect Ip and stands up for his fellow country men. Both men are fixtures in the Hong Kong film industry and have been in countless films (since the 1960’s for Hung and the 1980’s for Yen).

Overall the fight sequences were what really gave this film its strength. They were choreographed and executed well and while I’m not a connoisseur of martial art films I enjoyed watching it. Ip Man 2 certainly wasn’t the flashiest or most stylized action film I’ve seen, it also wasn’t the worst. It had solid acting, decent plot, and good fight scenes.

Regardless of whether you are a martial arts film enthusiast or not, this movie will entertain you and make you wonder how these older, not entirely fit looking Chinese men make kicking ass look so easy.

Photos courtesy of Well Go USA/Variance Films