Ip Man (2008)
By: Devon B. on August 30, 2012  | 
Well Go USA | Region Free | 2.35:1, 1080p | Cantonese DTS-HD MA 5.1 | 107 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Yip Wai-Shun
Starring: Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Xiong Dai-Lin, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi
Screenplay: Edmond Wong
Country: China
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I'd been hearing about this movie for a few years, but I thought it would be some sort of sci-fi thing. I'd misunderstood the title, thinking it was I.P. Man, so I guessed it would be some sort of foo foo thing like Tetsuo: The Iron Man. Then I saw a trailer and the film was quite clearly a chop-socky. Turns out I'm a big idiot and this is actually called Ip Man and is a movie about a guy named Ip Man, played by Donnie Yen.

Ip's a guy from an affluent area, and the affluence allows the local people the free time to obsess over kung fu. Yen is the best in the area, like when outsiders come in to make trouble it's up to Yen to ward them off. It's a mostly happy place, but then, wouldn't you know it, war breaks out. Ip ekes out a living, but the injustices of an invasion get to the best of us, and Ip ends up taking a cue from Fist of Fury, New Fist of Fury, Fist of Legend and about 900 other movies that have "fist" in the title. When I say movies with "fist" in the title, I'm not recommending that kung fu fans seek out movies that have names like Take My Fist of Fury or Fisters of Fury because that may lead to some unpleasant surprises. What I'm saying is that this is a story of one really good kung fu guy rising up against the Japanese, and it's been done before. A lot.

Since the story is very familiar, I wasn't as engaged this time as I was the first 500 times I saw it. However, like with many a martial arts movie, the fights redeem the film's rather uninspired story. Like Prodigal Son, Ip Man lulls the viewer with some fights that aren't real, in this case they're sparring matches. This means that when the first real fight happens it's got a massive impact after watching all the kung fu guys playing around. Comparisons to Prodigal Son make sense because that was a Sammo Hung movie, and Hung is the action director on Ip Man. Prodigal Son is Hung's best movie, and despite the setup similarity, Ip Man isn't in the same category. But Hung's done some top notch choreography, and mostly avoided wirework. I'm not sure if it's meant to be an homage to Bruce Lee's version of this story, but during the fights there're characters that hop around in the background to make it look like they're part of the battle. Otherwise, the fights are really goddamn good.

The film ends saying that Ip's disciples are many, and include Bruce himself. I'm also one of Ip's disciples because I had a teacher that learned at Lee's school, and then my teacher taught me. He taught me science, but I still think that should count. Yes, I am part of a proud tradition, and clearly an expert on Ip because of it. So when I say despite its scripting familiarity Ip Man really is a great martial arts movie, you should listen.
There's a bit of edge enhancement early on, but this calms down a little ways in. Otherwise this is a fine transfer, and Yen has never looked so clear in my house. Colours are deliberately muted later in the film, but detail remains strong.
There're English, Cantonese and Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes to choose from. The Mandarin is okay sounding, but it's a dub. I've never been a fan of Mandarin dubbing, so couldn't bear to listen to this for very long. The English track is only for illiterates that can't cope with subs, but it also sounded a bit weaker like the actors were slightly muffled. While toggling through I found that none of the tracks really utilise the surrounds much, but Mandarin dubs have always been good at decreasing the Cantonese track's soundscape. I guess it's a hoo ha flick, so a lot of the action is front and centre, so it makes sense the surrounds aren't as active as they are in say Iron Man (the Robert Downey, Jr. one, not the Tetsuo one).
Extra Features
The Blu-ray has trailers for Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (another version of this story with "fist" in the title that also stars Yen), White Wall and 9th Company that play on start up. If you miss the latter two they are accessible from the menu. You're fucked if you missed Legend of the Fist, though. Also included is the trailer, theatrical trailer, an 18 minute making of that gives info about the real Ip Man and Yen's prep for the role, and some deleted scenes. The deleted scenes are presented in a very odd manner. They play against something that looks like a film roll, but has a location superimposed over one of the frames. There're clocks and counters, which make it hard to pay attention to the subs. In short, I have no clue what was going on in these scenes.

There's also a bonus DVD with some more features, though none of these are 16x9 enhanced. There's a five minute "shooting diary" which is a mash up of promotion and filming. There's also a look at three of the locations/sets. Finally there's a good selection of interviews, including lengthy chats with director Yip Wai-Shun and Yen. Hung gets to talk awhile, too, and there're other shorter interviews with other cast members.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
The story's nothing new, but the fights are well realised. As an indirect student of Ip's I may be biased, but I come to martial arts movies for the fights and might stick around for the story if I'm lucky, so didn't find the redundant story too big of a flaw. The plot isn't bad, it's just been done repeatedly, so if you've never seen a kung fu movie with "fist" in the title it might seem like a great movie overall. I imported this Blu because I got sick of the dinky, embedded subs that seem to be plaguing our local kung fu releases, and am happy that at least one English friendly label is doing right by martial arts fans.

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