Picking up where the first film left off, Wilson Yip's 2010 film Ip Man 2 once again teams the director up with Donnie Yen to continue the story of the man who would train Bruce Lee in the martial arts and in turn create a phenomenon. When the film begins, Ip Man (again played by Yen) has arrived in Hong Kong. Still under British rule at this point in history, it's a safe spot for him to lay down some roots and so he decides to try to make a living by teaching Wing Chun. He sets up a school on a rough top and although it takes him a while to get enough students to make a go of it, eventually he's got a loyal group of young men eager to learn from him.
The success of his school and a few rivalries between students get him into hot water with the other martial arts masters in the area, lead by Master Hung (Sammo Hung). They gang together and tell him that he cannot teach until he proves himself to them and so a tournament is set up in which he must take on and defeat any challengers without falling off of the table that has been set up as an impromptu ring of sorts. When he handily defeats Hung, they have no choice but to begrudgingly accept him. Ip Man's life becomes even more complicated when his national pride swells when a British boxer named Twister (Darren Shahlavi) shows up and starts laying waste to any Chinese man who dares enter the ring with him. With Twister cutting through kung-fu experts like a hot knife through butter, Ip Man finds himself gearing up for a fight against an opponent who is not only physically larger but also prone to dirty tricks, with the pride and honor of Hong Kong hanging in the balance.
Obviously made with a sense of national pride, Ip Man 2, like the first film that came before it, once again plays to audience sympathies but at least it does so well. Yen, who often times comes across as an arrogant pretty boy, surpasses expectations here and does an excellent job embodying the nobility and level headedness that his character was known for. His interaction with Sammo Hung, truly one of the living legends of Hong Kong action cinema, is frequently the highlight of the film and the two play off of one another very well. Their battle atop the aforementioned table is a stand out sequence not just in this movie but in modern HK Cinema in general. While there's some CG work apparent here and there, for the most part we're just watching two very talented fighters doing their thing to the best of their abilities, and the end result is fight film fan heaven. Later conflict involving the 'East Vs. West' aspect, wherein the incredibly brash and arrogant 'Twister' shows up expecting to handily defeat any and all comers, is tense and again plays to the sympathies of the Chinese audience the film was made for. Not to a detriment, however, as we fully stand behind Ip Man here, not just expecting but completely wanting him to kick the snot out of his obnoxious racist opponent. The final fight scene between Twister and Ip Man is just as good as the one between Ip Man and Master Hung, leaving us with a film that contains two of the best hand to hand combat scenes shot in recent memory.
The film concentrates more on action than the first film, and so we don't quite get the same emotional connection to the characters that we did in that earlier and superior film, but for sheer entertainment value, this picture is hard to top. Yip, who has worked with Yen a lot over the last ten years and has developed a knack for playing to his strengths as a leading man, keeps things moving at a great pace while the top notch production values, sweeping emotional score and slick cinematography result in a film that's as impressive looking as it is exciting and entertaining.
Well-Go USA presents Ip Man 2 in an AVC encoded 1080p 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen high definition transfer that looks very good. The quality of the image itself is generally remarkably detailed and crisp. Some slight edge enhancement is there, as is some slight digital scrubbing in certain scenes and if you look for compression artifacts you might see some of those as well but these are all very minor. None of these factors are overpowering at all. The film was made with a certain style in mind and so it shouldn't ever be the most colorful looking picture in the first place and this transfer does replicate that sort of sepia toned look that it had in theaters. The movie uses a very bleak color scheme, with a lot of grays and browns and blacks and dark blues, and parts of the film take on a 'period feel' appearance which we can probably assume was to give it an appropriately aged look. Contrast is good and skin tones are rendered fairly well and this definitely offers up more than standard definition can provide. All in all, the image is very good and leaves little room for complaint.
This disc offers up DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio tracks in Cantonese, Mandarin and English with optional subtitles offered in English only. Aside from a few typos here and there, the subtitles are done well and are easy enough to read. The English dub doesn't have as much punch as the Chinese language track does. The Cantonese track, the film's original language offering, sounds the best of the two though it should be noted that there are spots where the dialogue is much lower in the mix than the sound effects are. This might cause you to reach for the remote and adjust things as the movie plays out in front of you and it can be a bit irritating. Aside from that, there are frequent directional effects used throughout the film, and the score is spread out very nicely. The action scenes have a really strong weight to them, in that you'll feel the various kicks and punches on impact - this helps give the movie more ambience and atmosphere and makes it a more involving watch. Dialogue/sound effects level issue aside, the movie sounds very good here. Optional 2.0 Stereo tracks are also included in Cantonese, Mandarin and English.
This two disc special edition release contains a good collection of extra features. The first disc contains a Making Of Documentary that runs for about eighteen minutes and includes some interesting behind the scenes footage and interviews with the key cast and crew members. There's also a 'Behind The Sets' piece that shows how the sets were built for the feature - this may not sound like much but if you've seen the film you'll know how impressive the sets were to the overall look and feel of the picture and it's interesting to learn what went into getting them just right. Also on the first disc are a teaser trailer, a theatrical trailer and an international trailer.
As to what's on disc two? A quartet of deleted scenes are included here - a bit involving Ip Man's home life, a trip to the fish market, a challenge offered up in a Chinese restaurant and a bit with some boxing were all trimmed from the feature version but are included here and worth watching. Three minutes of Shooting Diary entries aren't all that revealing and are really just random fly on the wall footage, though the massive selection of interviews make up for that. Look for input from Wilson Yip, Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung, Huang Xiao, Lynn Hung, Simon Yam, Louis Fan, Kent Cheng, Youe Hong, Ashton Chen, Pierre Ngo and last but not least, Twister himself, Darren Shahlavi. The interviews range from four minutes to over half an hour each and given that they involve cast and crew they essentially deliver what we didn't get from a commentary track (as there isn't one - though the British release does have a Bey Logan commentary that wasn't carried over here, sadly) and that's a comprehensive overview of who did what and how they did it. We also get some insight into the historical aspect of the picture and what went into the fight choreography. Both discs include menus and chapter stops.
While it might not be as successful on a dramatic level as the first film, Ip Man 2 makes up for that with some jaw droppingly awesome fight scenes and plenty of ass kicking action. Yen once again shows serious dramatic chops and excels in the role while Sammo's supporting performance steals every scene he's in. Well Go USA's Blu-ray is a good one, offering up the movie with a great transfer and an impressive lossless mix and this two disc version contains a pretty impressive array of extra features as well (even if it stings a bit to know that the UK got the commentary and we didn't). Pretty much an awesome release in every way you could want it to be - highly recommended!
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.