Master Z: IP Man Legacy (2018), directed by Yuen Woo-ping, is a Chinese martial arts film. The film is sub-titled but quite a few scenes are in English.
The martial arts film is made up of a stellar cast of international actors who shine in the film. Max Zhang plays Wing Chun Master Cheung Tin Chi. Dave Bautista plays Owen Davidson, restaurateur, and drug trafficker. Liu Yan plays Julia, Fu’s sister. Xing Yu plays Fu, Julia’s brother, martial artist and the owner of a bar. Chrissie Chau plays Nana, Fu’s girlfriend and opium addict. Michelle Yeoh plays Ms. Kwan, the head of the Cheung Lok organized crime gang, and Kevin Cheng plays her brother, Tao Sai Kit. Tony Jaa plays Sadi, an assassin.
The director juxtaposes retired Wing Chun Master Cheung Tin Chi’s narrative against his backstory of challenging IP Man to a fight, and his new life as a self-employed grocer raising a precocious young son, and who isn’t adverse to lending himself out as fighter for a fee depending on the nature of the job. Tin Chi’s desire to live a less complicated life is put to the test when he rescues two damsels in distress who are being physically assaulted by Tao Sai Kit’s gang of thugs. Kit runs an opium den and is the younger brother of Ms. Kwan, the female head of a Hong Kong triad. They are all arrested and taken into custody but are eventually let go. No charges are laid. The Hong Kong Police Commissioner is corrupt and on the triad’s payroll.
Nevertheless, Tin Chi incurs the ire and wrath of Kit who retaliates and burns down his grocery shop. Tin Chi and his son barely escape with their lives and are met on the other side by Kit’s thugs brandishing machetes and guns. They manage to escape but are chased through the streets. Tin Chi sees Julia, the damsel he helped out of a jam, and hands over his son to her for safety. He confronts Kit’s gang of thugs which he defeats in acrobatic martial arts style. Tin Chi thinks he’s out of danger, but, he isn’t for a more sinister and powerful thug is waiting in the shadows to have his turn at killing Tin Chi. Their fight is halted when police sirens are heard in the distance. Following a hospital visit, Julia takes Tin Chi and his son Fung in but it’s a complicated situation. Unbeknown to Tin Chi, Julia’s brother Fu is indebted to Ms. Kwan who happens to be his benefactor. In retaliation, Tin Chi burns down Kit’s opium den.
Ms. Kwan and her younger brother don’t see eye to eye because she wants to legalize her crime syndicate and he doesn’t. He likes things as they are. Ms. Kwan gives her brother an ultimatum to stop meddling with Tin Chi and move on but he doesn’t heed her advice.
The film is full of twists and turns which fuels the narrative and adds to the dramatic tension. Kit has his own ideas which run contrary to his sister’s intentions which puts her plans at risk. Kit moves on to selling heroin on the streets and forms a partnership with Owen Davidson, a drug trafficker. Tin Chi alerts Ms. Kwan to her brother’s drug dealing. When Nana, one of the damsels in distress that Tin Chi rescued, and who happens to be Fu’s girlfriend is brutalized and murdered by Kit and his thugs, the drama ensues. Fu and Tin Chi take on Kit and Ms. Kwan. When Ms. Kwan learns of her brother’s treachery, she chops off his arm. The parties reach a stalemate but the drama doesn’t end and continues. Fu has incurred the wrath of Owen Davidson who takes him out with the assistance of the corrupt Hong Kong Commissioner. Fu is no match for Owen Davidson despite his heroic efforts to fight back. When Tin Chi learns Owen Davidson is the culprit behind the death of Fu, he intercedes to avenge his friend’s death and to stop Julia from retaliating who is no match despite her best intentions to avenge her brother’s death. Tin Chi and Owen Davidson fight to the death. Despite his size and brute strength, Owen is no match to Tin Chi’s technique, speed, and agility. Owen manages to get away when the police show up and attempt to arrest Tin Chi. A riot ensues and Tin Chi confronts the corrupt Hong Kong Commissioner who is arrested. Tin Chi chases after Owen Davidson but someone else finishes the job for him. Tin Chi is re-united with Julia and his son.
The dramatic tension never lets up and the martial arts scenes will keep you enthralled. The director has woven together many visual elements to create a compelling film where the boundaries between good and evil are blurred. Who really is the bad guy in the film? Everyone seems to be tainted in some way. Ms. Yeoh says it best when her successful bid at a charity auction is declined. There is so much to recommend the film which includes the stellar cast, the special effects, the period sets and costumes, the well-executed martial art scenes, and the excellent soundtrack and nostalgic songs. Michelle Yeoh gives a stellar performance as the able-bodied competent leader of a triad who is quite capable in holding her own against Tin Chi. The martial arts scene between Ms. Kwan and Tin Chi in Fu’s bar involving a poured drink is absolutely amazing to watch. Her gravitas lights up the screen as does Dave Bautista who plays a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type character who is a master of cooking steaks. Max Zhang’s is brilliant in his role as former Wing Chun Master and boy, can he deliver the punches and kicks! The David and Goliath fighting scene between Tin Chi and Owen Davidson is a brilliant piece of film making and nicely executed. I loved the dancing on Bar Street between the American sailors and the Chinese bar girls which gave the film a hint of nostalgia and situated the film in a historical context. Liu Yan as Julia is amazing to watch. She not only knows how to fight but can she sing and in English too.
If you are a fan of Chinese martial arts films, you’ll love it for its well-executed martial arts scenes. If you’re a fan of Chinese films, you’ll love it for it’s unique story line and take on cinema. Do see it for you won’t be disappointed. It’s a compelling dramatic film and worthy of your attention!
WELL GO USA Entertainment releases MASTER Z: IP MAN LEGACY in Canada on Digital, DVD and Blu-ray combo on
Tuesday, July 23rd.