Master Z: Ip Man Legacy (2018)

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Max Zhang takes on a slew of new fighters including the hulking Dave Bautista himself in the official spin-off of the Ip Man film series.

After losing to Ip Man, Wing Chun master Cheung Tin-Chi has decided to give up martial arts and live life as a single dad to son Fung. Cheung opens a store. After dropping his son off to the school bus, he heads to make a delivery. On his way back, he finds himself seeing a young woman named Julia fighting off a gang led by Kit to protect her friend Nana, who’s been addicted to opium. When Cheung helps Julia, the entire group is arrested but eventually everyone is set free.

In retaliation, Kit has Cheung’s store and home burnt down. When Cheung and Fung narrowly escape, they are pursued by both Kit’s gang and a former associate of Cheung’s named Sadi. With help from Julia, Chueng and Fung are nursed back to health. Cheung finds a job working at a bar run by Julia’s brother Fu, who also offers his home. When Cheung, in a moment of revenge, burns Kit’s opium den on fire, Kit’s sister Kwan, the head of a local Triad, decides not to retaliate but keep things clean. However, Cheung soon learns that the drugs are headed by American restaurant owner Owen Davidson, whose paid off the police to keep their noses out of it. He soon makes a decision that will change his life.

Ip Man 3, released in 2015, had the distinction of having Ip Man take on a near equal in fellow Wing Chun expert Cheung Tin-Chi. What stood out from Cheung is that he wasn’t a relatively bad guy. He did some misdeeds, such as illegal fighting and mercenary work, all to take care of himself and his son. His character proved to be so popular among the fans that it warranted producer Raymond Wong to give actor and martial artist Max Zhang his own spin-off of the film series.

Zhang shows why he is the next action legend to follow in the footsteps of legends Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Jet Li, and Donnie Yen. Zhang has the charisma, acting ability, and of course, the martial arts skills to boot. He’s made an impact especially over the past five years and with Ip Man 3 being a breakout, he brings the same here in the role of Cheung Tin-Chi. He still struggles as a single father and makes the most of his situation only to once again find himself using his skills to help people. There are even references to his brief alliance with Ip Man mentioned in the film.

There are two central villains and a more anti-hero of sorts. The anti-hero comes in the form of Michelle Yeoh’s Triad leader Tso Ngan-Kwan, who only wants to keep things legit. However, one villain comes in the form of Kevin Cheng’s Tso Sai-Kit, Ngan’s younger brother and drug dealer who grows tired of following his sister’s shadow. He’s responsible for most of the setup of the action pieces in the film. However, the big bad comes in the form of Dave Bautista, who starts off as gentle giant Owen Davidson. That is, until his true nature is revealed, and he becomes the brutish rival of our hero. Now, there is a bit of mystery involving Tony Jaa’s character of Sadi. It looks like from the first scene, he’s a mercenary like Cheung and even tests his skills at first. Then, it looks like maybe Kit hires Sadi to fight Cheung, and then there is one more scene involving him.

The action is pretty good, despite the use of wires in certain scenes, especially when Cheung is fighting Kit’s men on top of signs in the city. It is a bit farfetched at times, but for some reason it works. Michelle Yeoh even takes to take on Zhang briefly and shows she hasn’t lost a step. As for Bautista, well, his character uses Western boxing so it’s similar to seeing Donnie Yen against Mike Tyson in Ip Man 3, but Bautista does get to add a little grappling to his arsenal due to his professional wrestling background. Some of the moves look a bit farfetched throughout the film, but it doesn’t away the film’s spirit.

Master Z: Ip Man Legacy is a pretty good spinoff that definitely helps to continue Max Zhang’s rise in the ranks of action legends. Despite some wirework, the overall film is quite good thanks in part to Michelle Yeoh, Dave Bautista, and Kevin Cheng.

WFG RATING: B

Well Go USA Entertainment presents a Mandarin Motion Picture Co. Ltd. production. Director: Yuen Woo-Ping. Producers: Raymond Wong and Donnie Yen. Writers: Edmond Wong and Chan Tai-Li. Cinematography: Seppe Van Grieken and David Fu. Editing: Chow Kai-Pong and Kwong Chi-Leung.

Cast: Max Zhang, Ada Liu, Dave Bautista, Kevin Cheng, Michelle Yeoh, Tony Jaa, Xing Yu, Chrissie Chau, Yuen Wah, Brian Thomas Burrell, Philip Keung, Patrick Tam.

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