Friday, May 18, 2012

Ip Man 2 - Because some Countries Never Learn from History...

This week will conclude our Ip Man adventure with the second film starring Donnie Yen. Now, truth be told that after the big success of the first film, everyone went a little crazy and this film sort of took on a life of its own, with characters (old and new) that were a bit more shallow and a storyline that, in spots, felt like the early 20th century Chinese story of Rocky.

But don't let that deter you from this movie!!! 

Is it as good as the first film? Good question! Suffice to say, we both agree that it is simply "different" from the first film, not being either better or worse. Just... Different. There is a lot of punching a lot of kicking, some HUGE guys, some flying teeth, excellent montage sequences... And honestly, according to our criteria, that's all that matters.

After all, that's why this blog is called "Punch in the Neck", and not "Films with Great Form". (buwahahhaaa)


Our film opens with a montage (#1) of the end of the first film, and a few bits of added information to launch us forward into the year 1950. Ip Man has relocated to Hong Kong with his now pregnant wife and insanely adorable son. The economy is bad and he is doing his best to establish a Wing Chun school and eek out a meager living. Unfortunately, his good friend Quan, who helped him escape, was shot in the head by Colonel Shooty McTriggerfinger... and you are instantly launched into a somber state, only compounded by the sad music and excessive rain on the Sepia Tone skyline. 

Nine days pass by and he hasn't been able to recruit any students. Rather, the neighbor has asked if she can use his rooftop to dry her laundry. They're low on money, their son needs his school fees, and the landlady is pounding on the door for rent money. Things are looking pretty bad. But Ip Man... he's patient. Just completely and utterly patient and gracious. But then....

A young man in a SUPER cool denim ensemble comes to challenge Master Ip and determine if Wing Chun is any good. This young man says that he will pay one month's dues if Ip Man can beat him. Pssshhhhhttt... dude. Naturally IP Man happily obliges, even smiling during the "beat down", and then asks if he's ready to pay up. Of course, Mr. "Young & Stupid" refuses to pay and insults Ip Man by implying that he's not even doing any sort of Kung Fu. (i.e. Surrender? I have no idea what you're even doing!!!) So, in one fell swoop, Ip Man, without advancing a single step, jakks Mr. Smarty Pants in the face, and then ends the fight 10 seconds after that with a sweet knee sweep, twist, and cheek smash move that I SO want to learn how to do. Naturally, with his pride deeply smashed in, our young man storms off without paying up. The whole thing was just short of a junior high "stomp, stomp, slam" maneuver. But Ip Man isn't too ruffled. (I envy his calm)

Not even 1 minute later Mr. Smarty Pants returns with three friends, thinking they were going to show Ip Man the "what-for". OBVIOUSLY these guys were too young to see or even read about the 10 man Japanese beat down that took place several years earlier. Needless to say, in less than 30 whacks the four boys are defeated and Ip Man has 4 newly enrolled students.

Montage #2 - Ip Man begins teaching his new students the ways of Wing Chun, gains about 10 more students in the process, and fails to collect much by way of fees. Leung (Mr. Smarty Pants) becomes his most eager and dedicated student. And, while Mrs. Ip seems to have gotten over the "hate ray" glare, she is ENTIRELY not thrilled about the lack of funds generated by her husband. In an attempt to better her mood, IP Man goes out to get her some cake. And, let's just be honest, nearly ALL pregnant ladies are suckers for cake. I know. That's why my pants are double digits.


While out, there is a scuffle in the street and he ends up realizing that it all surrounds Quan. YEAH! The guy who smuggled the Ip family out of Foshan and ended up getting shot in the noggin! I totally thought he was dead. Didn't you???

His nephew Lau, who is all grown up now, proceeds to explain about Quan having been shot in the head and how he no longer recognizes anyone. Ip Man of course blames himself for the tragedy, and promises to help Lau take care of Quan. (Yup, crack out the Kleenex here)

The next day, Leung (Mr. Smarty Pants) is hanging signs advertising the Wing Chun school, in an attempt to get MORE students enrolled. Suddenly, he is approached by some hoodlums from the rival Hung Kuen school. Being young and stupid, Leung challenges the four... yes, four (dummy) other guys. He does deliver some comparatively wussy wha-pu-tchas and manages to take down the leader.... but then gets lowered a few pegs and kidnapped by the other three. So now Mr. Smarty Pants is being held for ransom and Ip Man is instructed to come pick him up at a fish market. Brilliant. Nicely done Leung.

So Master Ip calmly proceeds to the fish market to collect his stray student. And, while we don't condone hostage situations in any way, shape, or form... we DO at least know that if you MUST hold someone hostage, you don't let them go until you collect your ransom, right? Well, these kids are young and brilliant, and they hand Leung over to Master Ip before he's hardly said a word. They must also not realize the smack he is capable of laying down, because when they realize he doesn't have the ransom, they ('they' being the 40 dudes who work at the fish market) attack.

The next part goes something like this:

  • pallet to the face
  • face to a pallet
  • stool to the chest

... and Donnie Yen doing more awesome things with more pallets and stuff than you can imagine and all of this resulting in him arming himself with two giant fish knives, which he then uses to quite literally lay down that smack we were talking about a minute ago. And by smack, we don't mean with the slicing, dicing, and blood spooting. No, no, no... IP Man is too cool for that. He literally uses the knives as an extended slapping device. And honestly, how humiliating is that to be SLAPPED by a knife in a seriously bad fight??? Hang your heads in shame boys, 'cause you just got owned!

NOW, despite their epic performance, Master Ip and Leung become cornered. 
BUT! Guess who shows up. 

No, seriously, guess. 

Baaah, you'll never guess, so we'll just tell you. 

It's Jin! 

Remember Jin? He's that smelly northern-style dude who got his butt beat with a feather duster, and then got his ear whacked in with a pole in the first film. Well, turns out he grew a deep respect for Master Ip, calmed down, got married and shows up just in time with a whole lot of guys with really big sticks. He doesn't see much action, but at least distracts the hell out of everyone (including us) until the big boss Master Hung (Sammo Hung, to be excact) shows up. Master Ip tries to explain the situation to Master Hung. BUT, he is pretty much told he is breaking the law and is unqualified to teach until he lets the other area Masters beat on him and try to take him down. Because that sounds entirely fair. And this whole thing results in Leung, Jin AND Master Ip arrested for inflicting injury on others.


So while they're being booked, we find out that Master Hung and his police buddy are both working with 'The Foreigner', a british official who is staging a western boxing match and stealing everyone's money while he's at it. As they walk down the hallway and into a random office in the police station, MJ loudly proclaims, "Oh g-r-e-a-t... THAT douchebag!", which naturally sends me into a fit a laughter.

Douchebag - An individual who has an over-inflated sense of self worth, compounded by a low level of intellegence, behaving ridiculously in front of colleagues with no sense of how moronic he appears (Urban Dictionary). 

So yeah... this guy is a "Grade A" jerk to say the least, and when Master Hung asks what their monetary cut is going to be for providing all the manpower for the coming match, he is promptly blown off.
Jerky AND greedy. Excellent!!

Now poor pregnant Mrs. Ip, with no money, is forced to ask their newspaperman friend to bail her husband out. She shows up weeping and wailing, quite pitifully. Due to the graciousness of Jin, all of the men, including Yueng, get bailed out. Of course, this whole experience has sanded Ip Man the wrong way and he has decided now that in order to keep his school open, he is going to challenge of the other masters... which basically consists of him standing on a table and accepting any challenger that steps up before the incense burns out. If he falls off the table he loses. Piece of cake.

After beating down the first two Masters pretty quickly.... Mr. Hung steps up to "FINISH HIM!!!". Yeah, he's the dignified lookin' dude with the mad skills. And, though we are probably about 1/3 of his size, there is absolutely NO WAY we could ever move like that, even if you paid me with a lifetime supply of chocolate cake. The man, Sammo Hung, is nothing short of impressive. He takes the table with some serious style, and promptly proceeds to cheat... and thus begins MJ's favorite film fight of all time. With the spinning and the wha-pu-tcha!! Akk! Eventually the meeting of the two Masters is just so incredibly awesome that the table breaks and ends the fight in a stalemate.

Master Ip is accepted into their Society and promptly told to pay his dues. 

Dues? What dues? 

Pshhhh... Ip Man doesn't pay people to be in their meaningless club. 
Having proven himself, he takes his leave and tells them to stick their dues where the sun don't shine.

So now, just to be uber-jerks, those pesky students from the Hung Kuen school start hanging around outside the Wing Chun school to deter new students. Leung obviously did not learn his lesson about the whole "young and stupid" thing, because he starts a fight with the other students outside the club, effectively destroying the entire block. This in turn causes Ip Man to be evicted from his teaching space. His students feel like crap for getting him in trouble and are left to clean out the space and return his equipment to his apartment.

Master Ip goes to see Master Hung to try to resolve any remaining conflicts, but still refuses to pay the fees Master Hung requires to ensure protection from the foreigners, and manages to entirely school Master Hung in how to be a responsible adult.

The next day is a lovely, sunny day in Hong Kong, and as a show of good faith, Master Hung goes to Master Ip's "outdoor practice space" (aka the park) and offers him tickets to that evening's Western Boxing match before heading to the venue to oversee the organization of the event. At the venue, he has a run-in with the British Douchebag, who pretty much tells him he and his men will not be paid for the work they have done to organize the event. He leaves in a huff, but not before entirely pissing off the "Foreign Devil".


Cut to that evening - the students of the various martial arts schools are demonstrating their skills in the ring prior to the main event when Twister (we call him Douchebag #2, which is a vast improvement over Twister...) gets ornery and decides to unnecessarily climb in and beat the living daylights out of the students. Then he says Kung Fu is useless, which is just about sufficient to get him lynched. Leung is injured in the fray, and Masters Ip and Hung jump into the ring to try to stop the fight. Twister ends up challenging Master Hung when he is asked to apologize for insulting Chinese Martial Arts.

Wow. I mean... just... Wow.
Master Hung puts up a good fight, but see... he's an asthma sufferer who is a good deal older than his beefy opponent. After a few rounds, he is entirely out of breath, and he just doesn't stay down when he should. Master Ip tries to throw in the towel, but Master Hung stops him, boring holes into Master Ip's face with his pleading eyeballs.

His pride and determination are ultimately his downfall when he holds onto the ropes, keeping himself upright for too long. Twister hammers him with punch after punch, and Master Hung dies there in the ring, much to the smirking pleasure of the snooty foreigners. Insert epic violins.

Of course the newspapers print front-page stories about their new martyr, and how he died for his country's honor. The British are none too pleased with this, and some Schwarzeneger sounding fellow orders Douchebag (I guess his name is Wallace...) to take care of it. So he has the chief of police, lovingly referred to throughout the film as "Fatso"... who just happens to have been good friends with Master Hung... arrest the editor of the paper so that Officer Douchebag can beat the editor stupid, breaking his hands with a club, which is entirely creepy and causes one to shudder. Having had enough of the "foreign devils", "Fatso" comes up with a sneaky plan to get unleash a little payback.

Then the foreigners take low to a whooooole new level. They hold a press conference, and try to make people believe that it was Master Hung who challenged Twister, and that the boxer accepted the challenge against his better judgement, causing the unfortunate death of a much weaker, older man. Twister, though, blows the whole thing up, challenging any Chinese man who is brave enough to get in a ring with him.
This would be Doughbag #3 on the left, and Twister on the right.
Now, Master Ip knows what's up. And, to be perfectly honest, he's about two steps over the "sick of your crap" line and immediately steps up to challenge the uncouth, loud mouthed, slab of meat they call Twister... because who else is going to teach him what martial arts are all about? That skinny guy in the back row??? I THINK NOT!!!

Montage #3 (we told you it was like Rocky...) - A match is quickly arranged as we sit back and prepare for a can of whoop-ass to be opened. Pregnant Mrs. Ip and Son are sent to stay with the landlady while Ip Man trains. Police Chief Fatso decides to spill his guts to the newspaper about the evils of the foreigner, Ip Man brings Quan some food, and Mrs. Ip goes into labor, but refuses to let anyone notify her husband, who is training diligently... Come on, come on, let's fight already!!

Everyone and their mother has tuned in to listen to this fight on the radio in true boxing-movie fashion (think Rocky III and Cinderella Man), including the newspaper staff, Quan, Jin, and Mrs. Ip, complete with new baby whose cuteness we are not allowed to see. The MC is a little overzealous, and has nothing on Michael Buffer, but manages to get everyone introduced in epic fashion nonetheless. Once the fight begins though, I feel bad for the people listening via radio, because I'm pretty sure that wha-pu-tcha-wha-pu-tcha-wha-pu-tcha is not accurately described as a 'volley of punches'. The two men trade a couple of knockdowns, and when Twister gets frustrated he throws a punch after the bells signaling the end of the second round. Dirty pool, jerkface. The British take this as a cue that their man is being beat, and the judges immediately issue a new rule banning kicking from the fight. Seriously? Ip Man is perplexed for a moment, but decides it ain't no thang and carries on. He goes down again a moment later, and we join in with the entire country of China in hollering at him to get up, which of course he does, as he remembers he is fighting for the honor of his friend and his country. And then we scream and holler as he goes positively medieval on his opponent and beats his face to the consistency of tapioca pudding.

And so it was that Ip Man won the fight, gave a heart-wrenching speech about dignity and respect, Quan remembered who he was (I know, right? Ip Man 's got mad Kung Fu healing skills), Douchebag got himself arrested for being an asshat, and Ip Ching was born. Oh, and then Bruce Lee happened along, and Ip Man taught him the art of awesome.

Great movie... YES. You can rent it on iTunes, watch it on Netflix on demand, rent it from pretty much ANY brick and mortar shop (if they don't have it, SHUN them), or just do yourself the favor and just buy it.

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