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We get quite a lot of review material here at DVDActive, and sometimes it can be quite a struggle to review everything that we receive. Ip Man is a title that arrived quite close to the release date, but rather than waiting another week to publish my thoughts I’ve opted to put together this shorter review that deals more with the technical aspects of the disc than the film itself. So if you’re after a lengthy critique of the film I’m afraid you’ll need to look elsewhere, but I have included a brief synopsis for the uninitiated.

 Ip Man
China, 1935, and the city of Foshan in Guangdong province is home to a number of competing martial arts schools, all seeking to prove the superiority of their kung fu in friendly bouts. However, the area's undisputed champion, Wing Chun master Ip Man (Donnie Yen), is an independently wealthy gentleman who refuses to teach his style and prefers to conduct his fights behind closed doors in order to protect his opponents' honour when they inevitably lose. Several years later the second Sino-Japanese war sees Foshan occupied by Japanese military forces and Ip Man and his family evicted from their home. A hungry, desperate Ip takes a job working at the local coal plant, where he is reunited with many of his fellow martial artists.

From time to time workers are offered the chance to win bags of rice by competing against Japanese martial artists, and when one of his friends is brutally killed Ip volunteers to take on ten Japanese fighters at once, earning the interest of the Japanese commander, Miura. Ip also agrees to teach Wing Chun to the workers at his friend's cotton mill so they may defend themselves against a group of local bandits, and upon learning of this Miura demands that Ip also instruct his troops. Refusing to capitulate to the demands, Ip Man instead challenges Miura to a public duel in which he intends to prove the superiority of Chinese martial arts and restore Foshan's honour.

 Ip Man

Video


Ip Man’s 2.35:1 widescreen transfer (1080/24p AVC) is best described as ‘average’. It seems as though the director had a very specific look in mind for the film, as the palette has obviously been intentionally desaturated for stylistic reasons. This is most obvious when the Japanese invade Foshan and everything takes on a cold, oppressive look, but even the early scenes aren’t as colourful as I expected them to be. These stylistic fluctuations make it hard to judge the accuracy of the colour rendition, as the image goes from looking quite naturalistic one moment to unrealistic the next (this is particularly true of flesh tones). Brightness also appears to have been intentionally bumped up a bit, rendering some of the blacks much brighter than they should be. Again, this could be intentional rather than a fault with the transfer, but it’s still distracting. Grain is heavier in the darker scenes, but it’s nothing that detracts in any serious way. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the digital noise and edge ringing (both white and black) that appears throughout. On the plus side the image is virtually free from film artefacts (I did spot the odd white fleck here and there) and detail certainly falls well within the realms of acceptability for a recent high-definition title. However, the flaws mire this one in the ‘merely okay’ category of Blu-ray transfers.

 Ip Man

Audio


Ip Man’s Cantonese audio comes in both DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 flavours, with the former being the track of choice for review purposes. The track is a bit of a mixed affair, never quite living up to the promise of the film’s action scenes. For one thing its extremely quiet, so much so that I was had to crank the amp up so much I was almost deafened on my return to the main menu. Ip Man is a surprisingly talkie film and the dialogue is consistently well-rendered, even if it doesn’t sound entirely natural due to being dubbed in post-production. Although not the most dynamic or active track I’ve heard, all five channels receive a reasonable workout once the fights begin, and there are also numerous subtle touches throughout. While initially quite weak, bass really comes into its own as the action heats up, with every punch and kick reinforced by a suitably aggressive thud from the subwoofer. This is definitely a better effort than the video transfer, but it never ignited in the way that I expected (and wanted).

The English subtitles are generally okay, but there were a few times when I struggled to read them as they flashed up in very quick succession when attempting to translate a lot of Chinese text. The translation also appears to be quite casual and I noticed one or two spelling/grammatical errors, but they weren't deal-breakers.

 Ip Man

Extras


While the audio-visual elements are nothing special, Cine Asia has assembled a comprehensive collection of bonus material that should tell you all you need to know about the production.

Trailer Gallery: The gallery includes the teaser (01:17), theatrical trailer (02:19), UK promo trailer (02:06) and two TV spots (each 00:32), which cover all of the promotional bases. All trailers are presented in standard definition PAL.

Interview Gallery: This section includes standard-definition interviews with most of the major players, including Wilson Yip (23:12), Donnie Yen (22:09), Lam Ka-tung (08:56), Hiroyuki Ikeuchi (07:45), Ip Chun (03:27), Fan Sui-wong (04:51), Xiong Dai-lin (07:49), Sammo Hung (08:02) and Simon Yam (02:54). All interviews are conducted in the interviewees' native languages and subtitled in English.

Making of Gallery: This section includes a 'Making of' (18:37), a 'Pre-Production' featurette (02:03), a 'Shooting Diary' (03:28), and a 'Behind the Scenes Production Gallery' (02:02). All featurettes are presented in standard-definition PAL.

Gala Premiere (01:50 SD): As you probably guessed from the title, this is footage from the film's Chinese premiere. All of the major stars are there, with the ladies looking particularly lovely. It's a bit of a throwaway feature, but what the hell.

 Ip Man
Location/Set Design Gallery: This section includes the featurettes 'The Foshan Cotton Mill' (02:25), 'Foshan's Main Street and Mo Goon Street' (02:02) and 'Ip Man's Residence' (02:04). They're all pretty short, but some of the work that went into the art design on the picture is nothing short of amazing.

Deleted Scenes Gallery: There are five short deleted scenes in total, entitled 'Bike Ride' (00:20), 'Tea House Fight' (00:58), 'Informing on Ip Man' (01:36), 'Attacked by the Mob' (00:50) and 'Honourable End' (01:02). All scenes are standard-definition PAL.

From Ip Man to Bruce Lee - Tracing the Legacy (14:58): Jeet Kune Do exponent Dan Inosanto is on hand to tell us about Bruce Lee's fighting system, which has its roots in Wing Chun. Dan talks at length about the systems and Lee's relationship with Ip Man, as well as demonstrating some Wing Chun and JKD moves. It all looks extremely fast and difficult.

Also Available: This section includes trailers for a host of Cine Asia's other titles, including Chocolate, An Empress and the Warriors, House of Fury, Flash Point, Guard Post, Machine Girl, Fatal Move, Monkey Magic, The Myth, Kung Fu Dunk and Dragon Tiger Gate.

 Ip Man

Overall


Ip Man is a pretty average film on a slightly better than average disc. It’s a real pity that the visual elements let the side down, because the Master Audio track is does its job well enough and the myriad extras are informative and enjoyable. However, having seen screen captures from the region A release it looks as though that version suffers from its share of image problems, so you might as well save your cash and opt for the domestic release if you’re in the mood for a bit of Donnie Yen action on Blu-ray. Just don’t watch Ronny Yu and Jet Li's Fearless beforehand, because it's a much better film.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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