The fourth and spin-off of the 2015 IP MAN 3, MASTER Z- THE IP MAN LEGACY still has plenty of bite in the franchise. The IP MAN films have been a hit, one after the other, because the filmmakers kept to the successful formula while keeping the action and its execution fresh. Though the stories have been told before, they still come across as fresh and convincing.
MASTER Z can stand alone without anything known about the three IP films. When the film opens, the protagonist, Cheung Tin Chi (Max Zhang) has lost a bout with IP MAN, not shown, just mentioned. He retreats with his shy son to Hong Kong where he opens a grocery store, hoping to retire without notice and lead a normal non-fighting life. A little romance is provided by Julia (Liu Yan) who Tin Chi rescues from a local thug, Kit (Kevin Cheng). This is the typical story where a hit man wants to come clean or a boxer who wishes to stop fighting, but is then pushed past his limit so that he is forced to complete one final job. The same in this film. The local thugs will not leave him alone – burning down his grocery store and house while nearly killing his son.
The film has quite a few innovative action set pieces. The fights on the scaffoldings and on the signs that cover the top the builds are impressive.
The film has a good cameo from Thai fighter Tony Jaa (those who love martial-arts movies will immediately recognize him) as the hired assassin. Michelle Yeoh (CRAZY RICH ASIANS, former Bond girl and Martial-arts film regular in Martial-arts films like THE HEROIC TRIO) has a supporting but important role as the local gangster sister and boss who wishes to make all her activities legal despite objections.
The film pokes fun at the white man and the colonized Hong Kong by the British. The police commissioner is a white man who take bribes from the local gangsters. The scenes are played funny the way he accepts the bribes and how the Chinese under him are forced to obey his every command. A scene in the bar that the protagonist works at also shows the way the Chinese kow-tows to white people – something they do outwardly but grudgingly. Dave Bautista (AVENGERS, STUBER) has a role of Davidson, a bad drug dealer. The film takes the issue one step further, though done in a cheesy way, with the Chinese subduing their corrupt white authorities.
The segment where the drugs are dealt in public is unrealistic. Only reason this is likely done is so that Tin Chi can witness the drug deal.
For a Martial-arts film MASTER Z is above average – which is a good compliment considering the number of shitty Martial-Art films Hong Kong used to churn out in the past and also the present. The fight sequences are expertly executed (director Yuen is martial-arts choreographer who has worked in the MATRIX films) and alone worth the price of the ticket.
The film is available on digital and on DVD/Blu-Ray Tuesday, July 23rd.