Defeated by Master Ip, martial arts expert Cheung Tin Chi tries to lead a normal life in Hong Kong until triad leaders draw him back into fighting.
Initial release: 12 April,2019.
Director: Yuen Woo-ping
Film series: Ip Man
Languages: Chinese, Cantonese, Standard Mandarin
Nominations: Hong Kong Film Award for Best Action Choreography,
First introduced in 2008, Ip Man has become a celebrated martial arts film franchise that is popular among both audiences and critics, as well as garnering Best Film and Best Action Choreography awards, among other accolades.
The last time fans got to see the Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man, portrayed consistently by Donnie Yen, in action was in Ip Man 3, released in 2015. Set in 1959 in Hong Kong, China, among the highlights of the film is a duel between Ip and fellow Wing Chun expert, Cheung Tin-chi (Zhang Jin, also known as Max Zhang), which saw Tin-chi admitting defeat and receiving advice from Ip that “there’s nothing more important than the love of those by your side.”
Despite previous news that Ip Man 3 would be the last in the series, it has been confirmed that Yen will reprise his role in a fourth installment, set to be released sometime in 2019.
However fans who cannot wait that long may rejoice as a spin-off that focuses on Ip’s last challenger, Cheung Tin-chi, is slated to grace Indonesian cinemas much sooner in January.
Unlike the three Ip Man films that were all directed by Wilson Yip, Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy was helmed by legendary martial arts choreographer Yuen Woo-ping, who served as action director in Ip Man 3 (as well as the upcoming Ip Man 4). The script was penned by the franchise’s writers, namely Edmund Wong and Chan Tai-lee, who this time delivered the story at a faster pace to put the spotlight more on the numerous fight scenes. Donnie Yen is involved in this spin-off but only as a producer.
The plot itself is a familiar one: following his duel with Ip, Tin-chi (Max Zhang) now leads a humble life in 1960s Hong Kong. Running a grocery store, his daily life revolves around making deliveries and taking care of his son, Fung. However their life is peaceful no longer when he gets involved in a fight with hot-headed drug dealer Kit (Kevin Cheng) to rescue Julia (Liu Yan) and her drug addict friend Nana (Chrissie Chau). A son of the Cheung Lok triad founder, Kit takes revenge on Tin-chi by burning down his shop and house in an attempt to kill him. As Tin-chi and Fung escape, Julia who happens to be in the area helps them out and offers them a place to stay. Tin-chi later works at the Gold Bar owned by Julia’s brother, Fu (Naason).
The plot thickens when Kit gets involved in a heroin business in a bid to outdo her older sister Kwan (Michelle Yeoh), who leads the family business and wants to go legit, and the American businessman Owen Davidson (Dave Bautista) who befriends Tin-chi reveals his true skin.
Packed with no-nonsense street-style fight scenes throughout the movie, Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy delivers an entertaining watch for all martial arts film fans. In Ip Man 3, Tin-chi has already shown his mad Wing Chun skills. Now in this spin-off, he is the star and hence deserves to be the “unbeatable hero” just like Ip. His fight scene with the 1.9-meter-tall Davidson is both amusing and terrifying to watch.
Acting-wise, former wushu athlete Max Zhang came across rather flat as a quiet guy with a bad boy manner. However his high cheekbones and background as a skilled martial artist who kicked off his career as a stunt actor, notably as the stunt double for Zhang Ziyi in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, offer a good enough combination for a compelling main actor.
The fast-paced plot leaves less room for heartwarming scenes. Fortunately the story is well-developed and features just enough characters so audiences can easily relate with each of them.
Another thing to note is the existence of female characters skilled in martial arts, Julia and Kwan (of course, portrayed gracefully by Yeoh) — which is quite refreshing to see since no women have yet been given such a role in the Ip Man franchise.
Everything considered, those who have never watched the Ip Man series before can also expect to enjoy this film as it is: a thrilling martial arts roller coaster.
Given Dave Bautista’s background as a wrestler, you might think that making the martial arts extravaganza Master Z: Ip Man Legacy (out April 12) would be within the Guardian of the Galaxy star’s comfort zone. But Bautista found himself all at sea while shooting the film, which is directed by legendary action choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping and costars Max Zhang, Liu Yan, Michelle Yeoh, and Tony Jaa.
“This is the first Chinese production that I had ever done, and they do things a bit differently,” Bautista tells EW. “I was struggling at first, and they wanted to kind of adjust things and I said, ‘Don’t! I will adjust to you, because I want to learn this. I’m here to work with Woo-Ping, and watch him, and study him, and see how he works.’
“It was hard, hard days,” he continues. “It was a hard film to make, but he’s just incredible, man. I just love him. It’s weird the way he works, because it’s almost like guerrilla filmmaking. It has rhyme and reason, but it’s hard to figure out. But I was lost, completely lost, with what they were doing, and his English is very broken. But he would come out, he’s like 80 years old, and he’s still very physical, and he’d demonstrate what he wanted. He kept saying, ‘You trust me, you trust me, you trust me.’ Then, every once in a while, he would show me clips that he had put together, and it was amazing. It was beautiful, and stylish, and very well done. So it seems chaotic while we were filming, but he had chaos with rhyme and reason. I really have a lot of respect for him. It’s really an honor just to say I worked with him.”
In this spin-off of the Ip Man film series, Zhang plays Cheung Tin Chi, who tries to make a life with his young son in Hong Kong, waiting tables at a bar. But it’s not long before the mix of foreigners, money, and Triad leaders draws him once again to the fight.