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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Wing Chun: The Complete Series
Wing Chun: The Complete Series
Tai Seng // Unrated // May 27, 2008
List Price: $59.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted June 21, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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The Show:

Everybody have fun tonight! Everybody Wing Chun tonight!

Oh, wait, that's Wang Chun. Wing Chun is a popular martial arts style that is often romanticized in Chinese films and television. The latest of which being the appropriately named Wing Chun which originally aired in 2007. Tai Seng recently released the entire forty episode series on DVD with an eight disc boxed set that is sure to please fans of martial arts and draw in new audiences.

One look at the cover will draw instant bouts of interest from HKC lovers with the likes of Sammo Hung, Nicholas Tse, and Yuen Biao displayed prominently. With the three of them present there is certainly an air of promise associated with this series. Is it a kung fu epic or simply a worthwhile distraction? Frankly it's a little of both though Wing Chun is definitely a flawed little gem.

Taking place presumably in the early 1900's, Wing Chun begins in the city of Foshan in the Guangdong province. When the show starts we are introduced to some of the main players such as Liang Bi (Tse), his brother Chun, and friend Bun. We also meet a few other supportive characters that hang around Bi but they aren't very important within the confines of the story. At any rate it's quite obvious from the outset that Bi is the main focus of this series as every other character fawns over him relentlessly. What's not to love? Bi is a good looking, kind-spirited, aspiring kung fu master who has an impish sense of style and rudimentary sense of justice.

Bi is the son of Liang Zan (Biao) who is a respected doctor that runs a clinic which tends to the poor. Zan is also a Wing Chun master and is probably the most well-liked person in Foshan. Other important characters that appear early on are Gao Ming, a tragic youth who is out to care for his lost sister no matter what paths it takes him down, Fu another kung fu master, Buns father Uncle Cai, and Zan's sister-in-law Miss Yun. In addition to that cast is the villainous Long family who has their corrupted hands in everyone's pockets.

If you couldn't tell by the description of that roster, one of the problems early on in Wing Chun is that there are simply too many characters to deal with. The show starts out focusing on Bi and his exploits, shifts over to Gao, back over to Bi, over to Bun, over to Zan, and then we get the Longs caught up in everything. It creates a very unbalanced pace that makes the whole experience quite jarring when you get right down to it. Support characters such as Bi's trio of loser friends also get their time to shine but again it feels forced and very weak compared to the rest; almost as they the writers were stretching out scenes to make a run time limit.

One nice thing that Wing Chun does have going for it is a fair amount of continuity despite the erratic pacing. Quite frequently episodes pick up right where they left off and there is definitely a connection to be found in each storyline. Sure there are many side stories and plots running at the same time but they do all mesh well together. One of the more interesting involves Bi's quest to learn as much kung fu as possible. Because his father refuses to teach him Wing Chun, Bi has opted to study all forms of martial arts and eventually defeat his father in battle. It's a noble goal but his plans kind of change about half way through when he makes it to Hong Kong and meets Uncle Hua (Hung).

Zan continues business as usually and though he seems like a boring character we do see snippets of greatness from him. His doctoring abilities come in handy quite a bit, he gets into some kung fu matches, and even aides the new chief of police in Foshan when it comes time to crack down on opium. Gao and Fu also get involved with the Longs which leads to some deadly results. All in all there are so many plotlines packed into this show that each episode has something different to offer. With that being said you'll most likely latch onto a few characters and only care about them. Bi, Zan, Hua, and Gao were the most interesting to me and I just wanted to see more of them which didn't happen early on. There are long boring stretches between some episodes and you won't even see these characters for lengthy periods of time.

While I appreciate the continuity and amount of character development (as unbalanced as it is) there is something else that causes this show to stumble every now and then. Despite the fluidity of episodes some bits simply don't fit within the timeline and they aren't presented well. For instance we see Miss Yun trying to get Dr. Tang to give them medicine and promise to show up every day to bring him breakfast. Well, a month later after many other events an episode starts out the day after they initially went to see Dr. Tang. This occurs a couple times throughout the show and really could have been remedied by a time stamp or something. It almost appears as though the writers came up with an idea after they already closed one chapter and simply decided to revisit it.

Despite the few setbacks that Wing Chun has there's no denying the air of fun to it all. Bi is an enjoyable character to watch and you'll grow to care about Zan, Bun, and the rest just as much before the show concludes. While in Foshan the series kind of fumbles around a bit but once Hong Kong becomes a new location things feel a bit more refined. Bi's kung fu adventure gets interesting as it goes and discovering more about Zan helps lend to the mystique of it all.

Those of you coming to Wing Chun looking for an all out kung fu epic are going to be somewhat disappointed. While there is certainly an element of action in just about every episode there are many instances where robotic dialogue takes the center stage. There are boring stretches in between the good bits and the show has a tendency to feel erratic early on. It definitely gets better with time and in the end the quality shines through. This release comes recommended for lovers of kung fu and it's certainly nice to see Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung on the screen again.

The DVD:

Video:

Wing Chun is presented on DVD with a cropped widescreen display which is a shame because this should have been anamorphic. At any rate the quality of the transfer is decent but not necessarily anything to write home about. The video contains aliasing in scene transitions, grain, edge enhancement, a soft focus, and compression artifacts from time to time. This is kind of a surprise considering the show's recent production but we have no idea what the budget was like. With all of that being said there are moments where the show offers defined clarity, sharpness, and detail. The quality isn't anything to write home about but thankfully it isn't so distracting that it affects enjoyment of the program.

Audio:

This is a show that really would have benefited from a 5.1 surround mix but as it stands 2.0 Dolby Digital is about as good as you're going to get. With that in mind there is no English dub and this set only offers Cantonese and Mandarin as its main source of dubbing. Both tracks feel off with the Cantonese track containing original recordings but some actors have been recorded over due to their speaking of Mandarin. The Mandarin track has seemingly been done over completely so you never get language that matches lip movements.

Another flaw with the audio of this release comes from the English subtitles (though traditional and simplified Chinese is available as well) which are absolutely terrible. At best you could say that the subtitles offer a general idea about the dialogue but some words feel very forced or used wrong and there is a plague of typos. If you can tolerate broken English and don't mind trying to piece things together for yourself occasionally then you'll get the gist of it. Not every bit of dialogue is bad mind you but there is a steady stream of mistakes that makes it almost comical. I understand this is a show with more of a Chinese focus but it would have behooved Tai Seng to at least have appropriate English subtitles included to broaden the show's appeal.

Extras:

Some trailers are included here but that's it.

Final Thoughts:

Wing Chun is a flawed show. The oft-jumbled storylines and vast amount of characters give the series a screwy pace. Add to that the sometimes shoddy English subtitles and you have a frustrating release to sit through. Despite all of that there is a lot Wing Chun does right. The show's overall story is quite good and Hung, Biao, and Tse are very much at the top of their games here. Sure I had some mixed feelings about the series while watching it early on but around the time Hong Kong comes into focus the quality of the story gets much better. In the end I'm going to recommend this series for lovers of martial arts film and television.


Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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