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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 Martin Liebman on April 8, 2011 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
A wonderful film earns a decent Blu-ray release.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, April 8, 2011
My Kung Fu isn't too bad.
Ip Man is a flat-out fantastic film. A carefully-crafted, exciting, and meaningful look at the real purposes of the martial arts as seen from the perspective of one of the world's most acclaimed teachers -- the Chinese Grand Master Yip Kai-Man -- and set against the backdrop of the Japanese invasion of China in the late 1930s, Ip Man is based on the true-life story of a man who trained hard, understood his strength, respected others, and fought for his country under horrifically difficult circumstances. Ip Man espouses the limited use of martial arts as a tool with which to sharpen minds and hone bodies, while utilizing both as weapons only in the most dire, no-choice circumstances where the teachings of mental acuity; fight avoidance; and respect for oneself, others, and the power of the martial arts are shunned by an opponent who knows nothing of the disciplines and understands only the power of the kick and the swiftness of the punch. Ip Man teaches that there are times to fight and times for restraint, but it all comes back to the understanding of the place of martial arts in society and the necessary respect for the awesome power that comes from within that must be balanced between the ability to use force and the desire to do so only in the most necessary of times. And that discipline is far more valuable than the ability to punch and kick and take down an opponent.
In the Chinese city of Fo Shan, the martial arts play an integral role in the lives of the people. The many acclaimed martial arts schools that dot the landscape have become something of a defining entity that's made Fo Shan famous far and wide. Of all the great masters who teach in Fo Shan, none is greater than Ip Man (Donnie Yen), a man whose mind is as disciplined as his body, whose loathing of violence is matched only by his ability to make use of it, should the need arise. When a gang of ruffians come into town with hopes of defeating all of Fo Shan's master martial artists and thereby raise their own stature and facilitate the opening of a new school, they resoundingly win fights against the city's best. Disappointed by the competition, they seek out Ip Man, but the longtime mater proves too much for the new up-and-comers. Soon thereafter, in 1937, Fo Shan is invaded by the Japanese, forever altering the city's landscape and reducing even the great master Ip Man -- an independently wealthy family man -- to scavenge for food. His home taken over by the Japanese army and his family going hungry, he is forced into performing manual labor for only scraps of food as payment. However, when his captors choose to exploit the city's reputation for martial arts both for their own entertainment and to train the army in the ways of Chinese self defense, Ip Man becomes a central figure in the slow but steady revolt, but little does he know he will soon have to face off against a second enemy just as dangerous as the Japanese occupiers.
Ip Man is an energetic and exciting but also extraordinarily well-crafted picture that pays attention to detail and is not satisfied by simply putting on a show of dizzying martial arts action, even if the film's dazzling fight choreography is the one element most will take away from the movie and remember as the film's hallmark. There's no denying the sheer elegance of the fight scenes -- more on those in a moment -- but Ip Man is also, and more importantly, a thoughtful picture that places the martial arts in a context that juxtaposes usefulness and necessity and how the two can be one and the same or radically different entities depending on the mind that's in control of the powers they wield. Ip Man carries himself with a confidence that's certainly backed up but his unprecedented skill but that's defined by his calm demeanor and high level of intelligence that allows him to reason his way through most situations rather than fight his way past any and all adversities. He understands the places of the tongue, the mind, the soul, and the body, making use of all but giving more play to the nonviolent elements ahead of the physical power of the martial arts in all but the most dire of circumstances, none of which he brings upon himself. It's only when the world gives him no choice -- when violence has permeated society and removed almost all semblance of reason and calm from the equation -- does he stand up for himself, his family, his friends, and his countrymen through violent means and potentially deadly ends. There's a great lesson to be learned here; violence is an answer, but it's not the answer. Understanding the different elements of conflict resolution may often be more important than sheer physical strength, but it's also prudent to prepare for the day when the mind cannot defeat a determined enemy who lacks reason, and to prepare for that day in such a way as to all but guarantee a victory won through violence, too.
When it comes to time to resort to violence, Ip Man delivers always visually stunning fight choreography that's second-to-none. There's both an intensity and realism to the fight sequences, and it's not often that a movie can so effortlessly capture both to this level of excellence. The seamlessness of the fights is backed up by amazing choreography that's accentuated by slick camera work that helps to create several scenes that will leave audiences breathless and, while anticipating and hoping for more, also understanding of the film's greater themes of nonviolence and, oddly, rooting for peaceful resolutions to the various conflicts even when the action is the most "exciting" element in the film. Ip Man's balance in that regard is also one of its greatest strengths. That it can espouse the goodness of martial arts while also capturing the authenticity of the violence they can create is an extraordinary compliment to how wonderfully thoughtful and carefully crafted a film this really is. Still, audiences will witness the combination of speed, power, and grace that define every fight scene -- whether Ip Man's playful bout with new-in-town Master Liu or his showdown with the vicious Japanese officer at film's end -- with unmatched awe; even most of the more well-known Martial Arts films cannot match the pure intensity and innate realism of these fights, and that they are grounded in a dark, unforgiving reality of invasion and violence and not the almost fairy tale acrobatics of the excellent but not exactly true-to-life action of something like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon makes Ip Man a true master and instant classic of the Martial Arts film.
Just as critical to the film's success is its amazing acting and production design. To the latter first, Ip Man is a pleasure to behold for its amazing recreation of 1930s China; set decoration is outstanding, costumes are magnificent, and the film manages to pull viewers into this uniquely colorful and decorative but beautifully simplistic world with ease. As the invasion commences, however, the bright colors and fanciful sets give way to a lifeless, cold, inhospitable atmosphere that's the physical representation of not only suppression and repression, but of violence and the darkness it yields when compared to the pre-invasion world where martial arts were taught as a means of improving mental discipline, honing the physical body, balancing the spirit, and yes, preparing for a dark day when violence may be the only answer to life's challenges. It is a stark contrast indeed, and one on which the film -- and its themes in particular -- thrive. Donnie Yen's performance as the title character, beyond the impressive visuals and wonderful fight choreography, is the glue that holds the movie together. Yen understands the character's intricacies and gives Ip Man a relatable balance between inner and outer strength. He plays the part as if a friendly fatherly type who has an unshakably firm grasp on the disciplines of martial arts at both extremes; that he is capable of such greatness in battle is overshadowed by his reluctance to resort to violence, even in friendly competitions where the stakes are but a man's pride rather than the lives of his family or the well-being of his soul. Yen's effort is astounding, a perfect performance that makes whole one of cinema's best characters and rounds a nearly flawless movie into form.
Ip Man Blu-ray, Video Quality
Ip Man's 1080p Blu-ray transfer is by no means a disappointment, but it does leave open much room for improvement. Most evident is the overly-sharpened appearance and the presence of occasional edge enhancement; Ip Man never looks completely filmic or natural, but the high definition presentation is still well-detailed and nicely colored, even if the second half favors a reduced palette that's deliberately awash in lifeless shades of blue, gray, and black. As for the level of detail, viewers should be pleased with the way the transfer reveals the intricacies of both fancy and, later in the film, tattered clothes; building façades; and skin textures. Colors are steady in the first half, not overly vibrant for sure but certainly fairly accurate within the picture's intended visual scheme. Blacks occasionally appear washed out, but generally are quite strong. A few stray vertical lines appear from time to time, but otherwise, the image is free of any visible damage or degradation. Ip Man looks good in high definition, but videophiles will be hoping for a newer, better release from Well Go down the road.
Ip Man Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Ip Man's DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack delivers a fair listening experience, one that's generally defined by a fair bit of energy, good spacing throughout the soundstage, a solid low end, and occasional surround activity. The picture's opening music can sound a bit cramped -- as can a few other selections throughout the film, all clearly absent the more general smoothness and seamlessness of superior tracks -- but clarity is often good and power is never in question. The track really finds its footing when the fight sequences transition from playful, friendly bouts to real and physically violent showdowns with far-reaching consequences. To that end, the soundtrack is nicely paired with the tempo of the visuals and the various themes scattered throughout the film. Atmospherics are fair; listeners will never feel wholly immersed into Fo Shan, but the DTS track does a fair job of bringing the city to life both pre- and post-invasion. Dialogue can be a little hushed in spots, but is generally crisp and accurate up the middle front portion of the soundstage. Much like the video, this soundtrack is good in a general sense but could be, it would seem, improved upon with a little more attention to detail.
Ip Man Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
IP Man features several good extras spread across both the Blu-ray and the included DVD.
Disc One (Blu-ray)
Disc Two (DVD)
Ip Man Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Ip Man is a fantastic movie that's built on strong principles of self-reliance, self-restraint, friendship, and what it takes to survive in both the good times and the bad. Its themes are backed up by a first-rate story, fight choreography that's second-to-none, wonderful production design, and an outstanding performance from one of the best actors many Americans may have never heard of, Donnie Yen. Ip Man is a must-see film not only for its action but for its take on the place of action in society. Smart, entertaining, and thought-provoking, Ip Man is sure to dazzle first-time viewers and impress even through subsequent viewings. Well Go USA's Blu-ray release of Ip Man delivers a fair high definition presentation and a few more extras than are found on the single disc release. Highly recommended.
Ip Man: Other Editions
Ip Man Blu-ray, News and Updates
• 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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