Sometimes it feels as if martial arts films are a dime a dozen. Just this year I have reviewed five that were hit or miss: Muay Thai Warrior, The Four, The Guillotines, Fists of Legend, and Tai Chi Hero. The best so far is now the sixth I’ve been assigned: Ip Man: The Final Fight, available from Well Go USA on Blu-ray November 12. Packed with high-flying action — this is what I’ve come to expect from the genre. Lots of action, mostly taking place in long takes with fluid editing. Director Herman Yau has unleashed one of the year’s best action films that most people probably won’t see. The plot for The Final Fight covers the later years of Ip Man (Anthony Wong in this entry), beginning with his arrival to Hong Kong in 1950.
Leaving his family behind, he takes up residence above a restaurant operated by Leung Sheung (Timmy Hung). He begins teaching Wing Chun on the rooftop. Among his students are Chan Sei-mui (Gillian Chung), fan of martial arts novels and local dim sum girl; Tang Shing (Jordan Chan), local cop; Lee King (Jiang Luxia), tough and outspoken; Wong Tung (Zhou Dingyu), a prison warden with a bull’s temper; Ng Chan (Donnyh Wu), Wong’s best friend and tram driver.
From there, the plot marches through the arrival of Ip Man’s wife Wing Sing (Anita Yuen) who returns to Foshan after disliking the Hong Kong lifestyle, strikes, and riots, to the arrival of Local Dragon (Xiong Xin-Xin) who takes control of the Walled City. Along the way, Ip Man also makes nice with fellow instructor Ng Chung (Eric Tsang) who opens his own facility right across the street. We also get a love interest in the way of Jenny (Zhou Chuchu), a street singer, and the appearance of Ip Man’s most famous student: Bruce Lee.
Ip Man: The Final Fight punches its way onto Blu-ray in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Well Go USA delivers some top notch titles and Final Fight doesn’t disappoint. In fact, were it not for the onslaught of shimmer and aliasing on everything from sides of buildings, metal fences, restaurant walls, a train, and a shirt and hat, the transfer would be spotless. Banding, crush, noise are nowhere to be seen. Detail is impeccable the rest of the time, but the amount of shimmer and aliasing can be quite distracting. Black levels are nice and inky with no loss of shadow detail while color pops without bleeding.
The same can be said for the 5.1 Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio track. There’s an English language track in both 5.1 DTS-HDMA and 2.0 Stereo, along with a Cantonese 2.0 track, but Cantonese is the way to watch the film. English subtitles are of course available. As for the audio, you’ll feel every punch, kick, or wind blast (see the finale) with music and surround ambiance lively and full. Dialogue never gets lost in the mix and is presented clear and crisp. This is a great mix delivering a full assault when the action kicks in.
The special features are what we’ve come to expect on a Well Go USA release: upon start up there are skippable previews for upcoming theatrical releases Iceman, Special ID, and Wrath of Vajra, as well as a vanity reel for Well Go USA on Blu-ray. A 9-minute “Making Of” featurette covers everything from the actors to the production. The set design team gets most of the kudos from the cast and crew for delivering a set so accurate they all felt like they had stepped back in time. “Cast & Crew Interviews” includes Checkley Sin (Producer), Marvel Chow (Wang Dong), Liu Kai-Chi (Lee Yiu-Wah), Eric Tsang, Li Chung-Chi (action choreographer), Xiong Xin-Xin, Wong Cho-Lam (Blind Chan), Anita Yuen, Gillian Chung, Jordan Chan, and of course, Anthony Wong. The film’s U.S. and International trailers round things out.
Ip Man: The Final Fight probably never got a full release stateside due to being overshadowed by Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster, but director Yau delivers the goods for sure. Packed with amazing fight sequences full of jaw dropping choreography, and a superb performance from Anthony Wong, the legacy of Ip Man is surely preserved here as well as the bigger release. With The Final Fight hitting Blu-ray first, the great video and audio will make this one Blu-ray you’ll be glad to place next to the rest of the Ip Man films.