May 23, 2011

Blu-ray Review: Ip Man 2

Ip Man 2 (2Disc Collector's Edition) [Blu-ray]It was almost a year ago that I got my hands on Ip Man. It was a movie I had heard a lot about and was very anxious to see. The film was about Ip Man, one of the first to teach Wing Chun to the masses and one of Bruce Lee's first masters. That movie focused on the man's life during the 1930's and early 40's, where he taught martial arts and struggled to find his way after Japan's invasion in the early part of the 1940's. This second film picks up Ip Man's life a few years later, likely the late 1940's or early 1950's when he fled Fo Shan for Hong Kong when the People's Republic of China was established on the mainland.

Ip Man 2 never seems to be quite as serious as its predecessor and I feel that hurts the movie's overall impact in the long run, although it doesn't hurt the immediate enjoyment that can be had while watching it. There is something that is quite old school about Ip Man 2. It features a strong school element along with the usual fights and duels that go along with it. The master must display his even-headedness in the face of adversity before being allowed to progress to the movies main adversary, who is in true kung fu fashion decidedly over the top and wild. There is no question who the bad guy is and what he represents.

As we are reintroduced to Ip Man (once again portrayed by Donnie Yen), we find a proud man, a family man, and a man who is in desperate need of money. He decides to open a school. This leads to trouble with the local martial arts syndicate (led by Sammo Hung) which runs the sport. The even tempered Ip Man must show his worthiness to teach martial arts by facing down challenges from the best masters in town. It is a spectacularly choreographed sequence where Ip man fights challengers while precariously balanced on on a wobbly table surrounded by upturned stools, the first to fall loses.

This leads directly into the bigger conflict, that being a showdown with British Imperialism in the persona of Mr. Twister (Darren Shahlavi), a British boxing champion. It is an exhibition designed by the foreigners to demonstrate their superiority while the local martial artists are fighting for independence and self rule. It is a big issue boiled down to one entertaining fight.

Ip Man 2 shows its titular hero to be a man of honor, discipline, and skill, although far from perfect. He is a fascinating character who probably could have been explored a touch more, such as the first film. The problem is that it may not really be a problem. Yes, this is a story about a real person, but it is also a movie made to be a piece of entertainment and director Wilson Yip and writer Edmond Wong do an admirable job of bringing some balance, a balance that works despite some clear leanings towards the entertaining side of the coin.

Donnie Yen proves to be an interesting presence. I remember seeing earlier films and being blown away by his skills but being a little non-plussed by his screen presence. However, he has steadily gotten better over the years and he is just great as Ip Man. I have no idea how accurate it is, but I love the calm he brings to the role and how the storms swirl around him.

Simply put, if you are a martial arts fans, you will definitely want to get a hold of this one. The original may be a more complete film, but there is no way you want to miss these fights, including Donnie versus Sammo. Plus, they are shot and edited in a fashion that allows you to see what is happening, there is genuine sense of space and how these guys exist within it.

Audio/Video. The movie is presented in it's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and it looks quite good. It is in a bit of contrast to the first film whose colors were quite drained and drab, which was on purpose, but looking at the nice coloring here, it just makes this look very good by comparison. There is some aliasing seen throughout, but not enough that I found it distracting. Color and detail is quite good, even during fast action, notice the nice detail of the table fight between Ip Man and the other masters, not to mention the great looking sequence in the fish market.

The disk features three audio tracks, all DTS-HD tracks. There is the original Cantonese track, a Mandarin dub, and an English dub. The original Cantonese is really the way to go, it just makes everything feel more naturalistic and authentic in the original language. It also happens to be a very good tack with crisp clear dialogue and a well realized sound field even when it gets a little busy during some fights. Overall, the overall track works very well. I did also listen to the English track, this makes it easier to focus on the screen a bit more. It is not ideal, but it doesn't sound all that bad.

Extras. Most of the features are contained on a second disk. It is a DVD, not a Blu-ray. The only features on the Blu-ray are a few trailers and a Making of featurette. Also, two of the three trailers are HD, the third ad he featurette are not.

  • Trailers. The American theatrical teaser, the full American trailer, and the original Hong Kong trailer. It was interesting to see the difference in tone between the American and  Hong Kong trailers.
  • Making Of. This featurette runs a little over 17-minutes and features interviews with all of the principals. It focuses a lot on the the differences between the first film and this one and the approach of focusing on Ip Man's life after the war.
  • Behind the Sets. This is a series of short clips looking at the various sees and their importance to the film. These include pieces on Ip Man's school and the fish market where an elaborate fight takes place.
  • Shooting Diary. This is a collection of behinds the scenes clips shot on the set during filmmaking.
  • Deleted Scenes. 10-minutes of clips cut from the film. Nothing particularly special here, nothing is missed from the movie.
  • Interviews. Extended interviews with the principals including director Wilson Yip, star Donnie Yen, and star/choreographer Sammo Hung.
Bottomline. No doubt this is a movie to see. It has some great fights and focuses on an interesting man. Not the best I have seen and a bit weaker than the first, but still first rate and deserves to be seen.


Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Ip Man 2 on Blogcritics.

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