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  Master Z: Ip Man Legacy Ip Man Not Included
Year: 2018
Director: Yuen Woo-Ping
Stars: Jin Zhang, Dave Bautista, Michelle Yeoh, Tony Jaa, Kevin Cheng, Liu Yan, Chrissie Chau, Xing Yu, Yuen Wah, Brian Thomas Burrell, Patrick Tam
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Martial ArtsBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Cheung Tin-chi (Jin Zhang) gained renown in the Hong Kong of the nineteen-sixties as an expert in the martial art of Wing Chun, and legend has it he fought the most revered master of the combat, Ip Man, behind closed doors so nobody would know who actually won the fight. Cheung is certainly reluctant to say, for he was the loser, but this defeat has made him a more humble personality and he is now deciding to give up the life of violence and choose to raise his young son as the owner of a shop instead. However, in the area he lives, there are gangsters who insist on selling drugs to the locals, something he is unhappy about, but defending one of the addicts proves dangerous...

What to do when Donnie Yen doesn't want to make your Ip Man movie? Well, you manage to persuade him to film Ip Man 4, but in the meantime, you hire the chap who had the big showdown with him in an earlier instalment, no, not Mike Tyson, and make an Ip Man instalment in all but name, but lacking any Donnie presence (though he did get a producer credit). This try at expanding the franchise met with a mixed response, but even its parent series was not above those criticising it, and generally most liked it well enough, though it did not make Zhang a global star as Yen had become in then-recent years. It did, however, demonstrate he surely had the right moves.

Yuen Woo-Ping was the man in the director's chair, one of his late era flurries of activity that showed no signs of him slowing down despite being in his seventies by this point. The fight choreography was as assured as ever, though whether a concession to the style of the day or because he was slowing down - just a tad - most of the ruckuses here were edited with a rat-a-tat approach, which tended to go against the more fluid physicality the performers were doubtless capable of. However, you would hear martial arts fans brought up on the favourites of the seventies and eighties making that complaint till the cows came home, it did not appear to have put any filmmakers off using it.

The plot would not have been out of place in an eighties Hollywood action flick, never mind a Hong Kong one from the same era, as drug dealers were the villains, selling the product to the vulnerable and reaping the rewards the more people they got addicted. The most visible addict here was Chrissie Chau as Nana, an outwardly attractive but inwardly heroin-raddled friend of Julia (Liu Yan), who becomes the hero's partner so as to create a family unit by the time the credits were ready to roll. The way they are treated by Kit (Kevin Cheng), the most vile of the gangsters, is intended to have the audience worked up and anticipating Cheung handing his ass to him, but Kit was not the sole participant deserving of such a fate, as his sister was played by Michelle Yeoh, who indulged in a bit of swordplay.

All well and good, and in a bid to appeal to the international market who would that be hoving into view but co-producer Dave Bautista, that reliable warhorse of global recognition for action movies, and a guarantee of some cast iron shenanigans for the protagonist to battle against come the grand finale. He was a baddie here, and it was safe to say Yuen made the most of his opportunities and the obviously not too lengthy time he had Bautista available for, so that the great big brawl at the end was none too shabby. That said, he was overfond of the smashed table effect, which turned into a running joke once you noticed how often said item of furniture was destroyed by a flying body, and the usual issues with mainland interference had all the white characters as Imperialist running dogs out to corrupt the noble Chinese, no matter than China was far from an underdog nation on the world stage when this was made. Ignore the dodgy politics, and Master Z was fine, if a shade production line. Music by Tai Day.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Yuen Woo-ping  (1945 - )

Chinese director whose skill at staging electrifying martial arts has made him one of the most sought after fight choreographers in the world. Woo-ping made his directing debut in 1978 with the Jackie Chan vehicle Snake in the Eagle's Shadow, following it the same year with Chan's hugely popular Drunken Master. His brand of fast-moving martial arts direction was a breath of fresh air compared to the more staid style of many of his peers and until the mid-90s turned in pretty much a film every year, sometimes two or three, including Tiger Cage, Jet Li's Tai-Chi Master and Iron Monkey.

Woo-ping's action direction on his own and others' movies in Hong Kong caught the eye of the Wachowski brothers, who employed him for the kung fu sequences in The Matrix. Ang Lee's huge hit Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon followed, with the two Matrix sequels and Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill all featuring his talents.

 
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