[Fantasia 2019] Master Z is the Bee’s Knees with the IP Man Legacy

19 Jul

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Release Date: July 23, 2019
Well GO USA

Master Z: IP Man Legacy is a fast-paced, hard-hitting spinoff from the films about the legendary Wing Chun master Yip Man. Instead of this master of martial arts, we have another sifu whose style (wushu) can rival that of the other; this time, it’s the life of Cheung Tin Chi (Max Zhang) that we follow. This rival from Ip Man 3 gets his own film. He is trying to escape his life as a trainer.

Despite having lost to Yip, Chi believes his time in the arena is over. He’d rather pursue a simpler life with his son in an unassuming part of late 50s Hong Kong. However, trouble always comes up, and he has to serve up vengeance, Batman-style.

With corruption everywhere, one man can not do everything. He has to forge alliances. Chi doesn’t know who to trust. There’s Tso Ngan Kwan (Michelle Yeoh) and Owen Davidson (Dave Bautista). Both have questionable backgrounds. As for who is worse left me guessing throughout the film. It’s terrific to see Yeoh still deliver hits and Bautista still wrestle. In this film, he’s like Kingpin from Spider-Man. Both are entrepreneurs with various “investments” in Hong Kong. The latter, however, is a one-man army if he so chooses.

After a local gang sets fire to Chi’s new life (a grocery store he now runs), part of the collateral damage involved his son. Fortunately, a lucky intervention helps this displaced family try again. Julia (Liu Yan) is not only a romantic interest but also an angel. The chemistry found between these three heavily suggest they can be a happy family together, assuming Julia’s brother allows it.

The ‘Chinese (and IP Man) connection’ lays with the resentment between nationalities. Who holds the power in a city that is basically under British rule? Is it between gangs like in Kung Fu Hustle or in dealing with the governor, aka big brother? Both films see the protagonist displaced and needing a job to support the family, with other forces looking on. This subplot is not deeply explored; Had it have been, the socio-political context would stand out instead of simply being a work of fiction.

Instead, true to the franchise’s name, it’s all about the martial arts. Zhang’s acrobatics puts Jackie Chan‘s early work to shame and I feel he is an action star on the rise. Zhang is terrific at emoting a calmness over the situation his character faces and I hope to see him in more leading roles.

As the highlight of this franchise is with the fights, to see them take place on rooftops, building scaffolds and neon-bright streets is very involving from a stuntman’s perspective. Even though a lot of today’s stunts require harnesses and wire as a measure of enhancing the action and keeping stunt people safe, there’s no denying the thrill of watching skilled fighters have at it. To see martial artists execute their version of a Mexican standoff only made me grin.

Another film is coming. Ip Man’s tale is not finished, and I have to wonder if he and Master Z will cross paths again? Ip Man 4 played in theatres around Asia December of last year, and Master Z played at Fantasia 2019 and will arrive on home video next week. Even better, Ip Man 4 opens internationally July 25, 2019!

4 Stars out of 5

 

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