Master Z Review: Another Thrilling Entry in the “Ip Man” Series

Master Z: Ip Man Legacy

Vibrantly shot & action packed, the popular Hong Kong martial arts franchise continues to deliver.


The Ip Man franchise has done so much to bring back the kung-fu genre of film. Sure, Kill Bill reminded Americans of the somewhat lost genre, but it was Ip Man and Ong Bak that reintroduced the continent to the once beloved genre that took over the ‘70s. After three films (and a fourth in the midst of filming), the Ip Man series is diverging into a new path: one that, dare it be said, may be the start of the Ip Cinematic Universe.

Master Z: Ip Man Legacy is a continuation of Ip Man 3’s C-story. Following his secret defeat at the hands of Ip Man, Chung Tin-chi (Jin Zhang) ends his life as a Wing Chun master. He settles into a quiet life of running a small convenience shop and taking care of his adorable son, Fung. All is going well, until Tin-chi accidentally gets in the middle of a fight between Julia (Yan Liu), the sister of a local bar owner, and the upstart gangster Tso Sai Kit (Kevin Cheng). Also, Dave Bautista is there. And he runs a steakhouse!

There’s really no word that describes the newest chapter of Ip Man better than fun, and so much of that is due of the energy and skill of the cast. Zhang flows between adoring father and fugue-state fury perfectly. Cheng nails the fuming rage of Kit, wavering between cocksure swagger and vulnerable self-loathing. The legendary Michelle Yeoh brings it as if she hasn’t missed a beat since the late ‘90s. She only gets one scene to fight, but it is hands down the best bit of action within the entire film.

There’s really no word that describes the newest chapter of Ip Man better than fun, and so much of that is due of the energy and skill of the cast.

And then there’s Dave Bautista. He is such a bizarre addition to the film (then again, Ip Man 3 did have Mike Tyson), but just downright refreshing. So many of the characters have such a justifiably high motor of emotion that when Bautista enters as his soft-spoken chef Owen Davidson, it’s a bit of a shock to the senses. While he is seldom more than just a random American cameo in the first two acts, his turn in the third is just delightful.

Woo-Ping Yuen (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny) does his duty admirably and helms one heck of a world throughout the film. Much of the tone of Master Z has the feel of a movie from the ‘40s. The sets are crowded with detail and seem to lack any green screen to give the impression of a larger Hong Kong. Instead, the intricate depth make the neighborhoods feel so vibrant, even in such cramped quarters. Much of Yuen’s work during the fight scenes feel like a dance that flows perfectly with the fight choreography. Many of the fights are given tons of space to work with and thanks to the skill of the actors, Yuen is fearless in letting the action speak for itself. There are seldom any close-ups on the action and no sudden cuts to make the actors seem more proficient than they really are.  

There aren’t many low points in the movie, but the biggest wasted moment comes in giving Yan Liu so little screen time to show off how much ass she can kick. In her first (and only) fight against Kit’s thugs, she holds her own and is given a ton of complex fight choreography to work with. It’s very clear she has the skill to fight alongside Zhang, so when she is relegated to the stay-at-home-while-I-save-us-all role it is quite disappointing. Liu has proven to have a sizable acting range, weaving between comedy and drama, so giving her so little to do just feels like a disappointment.

The frustrating thing is that with the removal of one cameo – the random appearance of Tony Jaa – screenwriter Edmond Wong could have given the script just a little more time to feature Liu. Yes, the man is a modern legend and having even a few more minutes of him on screen is a pleasant surprise, but he seems to exist solely to showoff that they could get Jaa for a day of filming.

Those two complaints, though, are hardly enough to derail the breakneck awesomeness of the newest Ip Man chapter. Wong has made a wonderful career giving life to the world of this legendary Wing Chun master and even a decade and a half later, the energy and excitement are just as strong as they ever were.

Master Z: Ip Man Legacy Trailer
Liked it? Take a second to support The Spool on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *