IP MAN 2: LEGEND OF THE GRANDMASTER The famed titular Wing Chun martial arts master returns to protect Chinese honor in Ip Man 2, a redundant if nonetheless occasionally thrilling follow-up bolstered by star Donnie Yen's precision combat skills. Having relocated to Hong Kong in the early 1950s, Ip establishes a new school but finds himself confronting old dilemmas: scant money to support his family, impulsive students, competitors who scoff at his unimposing modesty. Director Wilson Yip's tale holds nothing back, with its initial hand-to-hand clashes proving to be its finest, from Ip taking on a marketplace's worth of blade-wielding baddies to him squaring off against kung fu masters atop a small table surrounded by upturned chairs. It's during this latter battle that Yen spars with the legendary Sammo Hung (who also serves as fight choreographer), a meeting of two martial arts maestros that serves as the action's apex. From there, alas, sequelitis sets in, with Ip again forced to set a shining nationalist example by defeating a xenophobic foreign enemy (in this case, an English boxer). Still, at least derivation corresponds with the film's overriding theme, as Ip's stated goal of proving that East and West are equal is covertly expressed by this Chinese blockbuster's naked second-half aping of Rocky IV. (Nick Schager) (Mann Chinese 6)
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