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Adapted from the life story of Ip Man - the grand master of the Wing Chun style of kung fu and sifu of legendary kung fu superstar Bruce Lee. This movie will be the first important record of the master's life. Ip's persistent devotion to Wing Chun is a classic example of the love and respect shown to wushu and the freedom and spirit it represents. Ip Man is a concept, a spirit, a way of thinking - and it exemplifies a new peak in Hong Kong's wushu movies.
For more about Ip Man and the Ip Man Blu-ray release, see Ip Man Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on August 9, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Donnie Yen, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Fan Siu-Wong, Xiong Dailin, Wong You-nam, Simon Yam
Director: Wilson Yip
» See full cast & crew
Ip Man Blu-ray Review
Sporting some of the greatest action choreography in recent memory, Ip Man should not be missed.
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, August 9, 2010
Released in 2008, Ip Man spans a 20 year period in the life of Yip Kai-man or 'Ip Man', the renowned grandmaster of a martial art known as Wing Chun. For those unfamiliar with the background or relevance of Ip Man, he was the first practitioner of Wing Chun to openly teach its principles and methods to students all over the world. Among his most famous students was a well-known film star by the name of Bruce Lee, who later assimilated the teachings of Ip Man into his own martial art called Jeet Kune Do. In a nutshell Wing Chun focuses on the stability and balance of a practitioner's body, utilizing a skill set that incorporates deflections and counterattacks in close-range combat. To prepare for the physical demands of his role and make the production as authentic as possible, 45-year-old Donnie Yen underwent intense physical and mental training, culminating in some of his best martial arts work to date, (further cementing his status as one of the strongest leads in Hong Kong cinema). Unfortunately, despite Donnie Yen's excellent performance and the high box office returns during its domestic run, <>Ip Man never landed a theatrical release on western shores, making this Blu-ray edition the first introduction most of us have to the critically-acclaimed film.
Set in the Chinese city of Foshan, Ip Man (Donnie Yen) is a martial arts practitioner with immense respect among his peers. The main hub of the city-center is dominated by various martial art schools that co-exist in the name of friendly competition. Periodically, students or grandmasters of these rival disciplines will visit Ip Man to stage a friendly contest, knowing he is regarded by many as the best among them. Much to the dismay of his wife (Cheung Wing-Sing), Ip Man rarely turns fighters away without at least a modest display of his abilities. This talent occasionally leads to challengers from the North (brutes who lack refinement), but the townsfolk know they can always relay on Ip Man to restore their honor. That is until 1937, when the Japanese invasion of China leaves Ip Man and his once wealthy family in ruin, forcing him to take any work available. Recognized by the supervisor of a local coal mine, the martial arts master does what it takes to get by, hoping to weather the Japanese occupation and get back to the life he once had. All of this changes when he and his fellow co-workers are invited to participate in private martial arts tournaments against Japanese practitioners. Ip Man is reluctant initially, but when a young friend of his agrees to the challenge for one bag of rice and never returns, he takes it upon himself to investigate. As it turns out, the Japanese General (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi) in charge of these contests is an expert in Karate, which he believes to be superior to any form of Chinese martial art. When Ip Man realizes his fellow comrades from Foshan are fighting for more than simply a bag of rice, he takes it upon himself to restore dignity to his people, regardless of the cost.
If I had to summarize Ip Man in one word, it would be "polished". From the storyline to the choreography, there wasn't a single element that struck me as out of place or subpar, which is a rarity in Hong Kong cinema. Beginning with the storyline of the film, writer Edmond Wong does an excellent job picking interesting elements to tell the story of Ip Man, without becoming burdened with the slower pacing that usually bogs down a biographical production. By the time the Japanese invade China, we're already intimately familiar with each of the primary characters in the story, and the way their lives intersect. This ushers in greater emotional impact during the events that occur in the second half of the story and establishes the framework for Ip Man's sense of purpose during the last act.
From a directing standpoint, I was again impressed with Wilson Yip (Dragon Tiger Gate, Flash Point), who's come a long way during his relatively short career as a director. I'd wager a portion of his success has to do with his ongoing collaborations with acting veterans Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung, but you have to give him credit for nailing the historic feel to the various periods in the production. It's obvious he worked within a reasonable budget for this go-around (reasonable in Hong Kong terms, but modest by Hollywood standards), since the scope of the film often registers close to epic territory.
Even if the storyline, acting, and production values had been less than ideal, the one saving grace would be the visceral fight sequences sprinkled throughout. Most fans of the kung fu genre are familiar with Sammo Hung, the 58-year-old kung fu star with amazing agility for his bulky frame. With Ip Man, he fills the role of fight choreographer and the end result is nothing short of remarkable. If you take the time to watch the "making of" featurette included on the disc, you'll be astounded by how intricately detailed the choreography became, with each specific character using a different style of martial art (to fit the personality of their role). For instance, the method used by Jin Shanzhao (the cocky fighter arriving in town to challenge each school) mirrors the boarish style of the traditional Northern Chinese combat, which offers a stark contrast to the fluid, unassuming style of Wing Chun. Later on, we're given a duel that pits Karate against Wing Chun, two styles that don't often meet in the ring (especially during the time period the film portrays). These sequences add a certain level of legitimacy to the entire production, since hardcore martial arts fans will appreciate the sense of depth not often found in modern day action films. Granted, there are still plenty of violent, brutal beat-downs, but when finesse lies just under the surface, you know you're in for something special.
Ip Man Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the AVC codec (at an average bitrate of 30Mbps), Ip Man isn't what I'd call a visually stunning film, but still looks decent within the framework of the vintage cinematography. Colors are often filtered down to remove any hint of naturally vivid hues, leaving many scenes either awash in yellowed, sepia tones, or a spectrum that falls just shy of black and white. This shift in the coloring is often meant to evoke a certain feel as the timeline of the story progresses (starting off rich in the years prior to the Japanese occupation, and gradually moving further from natural as we go), providing an emotional layer to the majority of the visuals. Fortunately the filtering doesn't seem to affect the level of clarity in the transfer, revealing subtle textures on the fabric of clothing and the blood-drenched faces of combatants. Looking to the background of most shots, you'll notice a wonderful sense of depth during both close-up and distance shots, developing a certain level of precision that's not often found on a film with a modest budget. Unfortunately, there are two items worth mentioning that collectively downgraded my assessment to a four. First, I was somewhat disappointed in the presence of edge halos and harsh bordering around figures or items in the foreground. The problem became most noticeable during the opening ten minutes of the film, but remains visible from time to time throughout the full length of the feature. The second item that collectively downgraded the visual score has to do with black level depth, which tends to suffer during a handful of shots. It's not egregious enough to leave a significant black eye on what's otherwise a strong presentation, but demonstrates enough instability to be worth mentioning.
Ip Man Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Whether you hate subtitles or adore the native language, Well Go has gone out of their way to appease all members of the audience with three lossless tracks of comparable proficiency. From a personal standpoint, the English dub ranks just shy of unbearable, with voice actors that truly struggle to convey the subtleties of their character. It's still passable if you're so inclined, but considering the amount of Japanese lines in the film (which require subtitles on any language version you choose), I'd recommend most viewers opt for the original language track. Moving along to the particulars of the native offering, fans of kung fu cinema will be blown away by the inherent strengths of the sound design. During the fight sequences (of which there are many), strike effects are distributed evenly throughout the soundstage, creating a sense of immersion that's often lost on modern kung fu productions. Whether we're listening for metal on metal during a blade fight, the crack of a bamboo pole, or the muffled swoosh of an aerial foot strike, every element blends together with a sense of realism that must be heard to fully appreciate. Likewise, I was impressed with the musical selections incorporated into the film (courtesy of Kenji Kawai), since they serve as emotional triggers throughout, yet still fit within the traditional setting of the production. If there's one area where the track falters to a certain degree, it's the front-heavy nature of the dialog, and the huge contrast between action-heavy scenes and the quieter moments of the film. I'm not necessarily advocating for an enhancement to the volume of the dialog, but the spread across the three front channels could have been much better. Likewise, it seems the environmental effects that reside in the rear surrounds are far less noticeable during dialog-heavy scenes, creating a situation where the emergence of action scenes can feel a bit bombastic next to mellower moments.
Ip Man Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Making Of (1080i, PCM 2.0, 18:33 min): Presented in Chinese with English subtitles, this supplement contains interviews with prominent members of the cast and crew, who discuss various elements in the production. The majority of the focus centers on the characters in the film and the actors that portray them, but there are also interesting segments that dig into the fight choreography and martial arts training several of the actors had to undergo.
Deleted Scenes (1080i, PCM 2.0, 3:19 min): Displayed in a full-screen (4:3) window box, we're shown three scenes that were left on the cutting room floor (two are rather profound within the story).
Rounding out the supplements on this single-disc release, we're given two high-definition trailers for Ip Man, and a series of standard definition trailers for other films from Well Go.
Ip Man Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Ip Man is the type of film that will surely endure improper labels suggesting this is pure kung fu entertainment (with limited appeal to those unfamiliar with the genre). In reality, the production is a dramatic biopic on the life of a fascinating man in Chinese martial arts history, who endured great hardship during the Japanese occupation of his homeland. For those with even the slightest interest in martial arts, this release comes highly recommended.
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Ip Man Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Ip Man 3 Coming Up - January 30, 2014
Martial arts superstar Donnie Yen is set to return as the iconic Ip Man. According to various reports coming out of Hong Kong, the third film about Bruce Lee's mentor is expected to begin shooting next year.
• Ip Man Blu-ray Announced - May 13, 2010
Well Go USA has set a July 27 street date for the Blu-ray release of the Hong Kong martial arts movie IP Man, directed by Wilson Yip and starring Donnie Yen. The film premiered in North America at the 2009 New York Asian Film Festival and was the opening feature ...
Ip Man Blu-ray Screenshots
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