Of the three Ip Man films, the middle instalment is by far the most ludicrous and therefore the best. Again it tells the highly (and I mean highly) fictionalised story of Bruce Lee’s teacher Ip Man, played by Donnie Yen, this time depicting the grandmaster’s rise through the ranks of Hong Kong martial arts schools. Initially a poor upstart who infuriates the local grandmasters with his flouting of their archaic rules and refusal to pay tribute, he eventually earns their respect by proving his quality.
The main bad guys this time however, are the British colonial masters, particularly the corrupt police officials and a nefariously violent and monstrous boxer by the name of Twister (Darren Shahlavi). It’s always good to see British colonialists get their comeuppance in films, and on that front Ip Man 2 duly delivers. One might argue it leans on the side of patriotic xenophobia—a charge that can be equally levelled at the first film and its use of the Japanese as scenery-chewing antagonists for propaganda purposes—but where the first film took itself overly seriously, particularly in depicting its baddies, the sequel presents its antagonists with such absurd scenery-gulping insanity it’s hard to remain unamused.
Of course, martial arts films live and die on their action sequences, and Ip Man 2 duly delivers; there are some excellent fight scenes here, and Donnie Yen is an absolute pleasure to watch and he kicks and punches his way through an endless litany of bad guys. Aside from the sheer ridiculousness of proceedings, the added visual imagination and flair in the fight scenes means the sequel is a strong step up from the first film.