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With: Max Zhang, Dave Bautista, Michelle Yeoh, Tony Jaa, Xing Yu, Liu Yan, Kevin Cheng, Chrissie Chau
Written by: Chan Tai Lee, Edmond Wong
Directed by: Yuen Woo-ping
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Cantonese, Mandarin, with English subtitles
Running Time: 107
Date: 04/12/2019

Master Z: Ip Man Legacy (2019)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

In the Kick of It

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

What could have been a feeble attempt to ride on the coattails of the Donnie Yen Ip Man franchise turns out to be, on its own, an exhilarating, tightly-paced, and expertly-crafted martial arts romp.

In Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy, Cheung Tin-chi (Max Zhang) is attempting to move on after being defeated by Ip Man in Ip Man 3. He briefly works as a mercenary before deciding to live a quiet life as a grocer and raising his son. While on a delivery, he notices an opium addict, Nana (Chrissie Chau), and her friend Julia (Liu Yan), being hassled by a thug, Tso Sai Kit (Kevin Cheng), over debts. Tin-chi intervenes and defeats Kit and all his men.

Unfortunately, this act brings unwanted attention to Tin-chi, and his store is burned down. He is taken in by Julia's brother Fu (Xing Yu) and given a job in Fu's bar. Meanwhile, while syndicate leader, and Kit's sister Kwan (Michelle Yeoh) wishes to take her organization legit, Kit wishes to move further into illegal drugs. And so Tin-chi finds himself in the crossfire between a hired assassin (Tony Jaa), a crooked restaurateur (Dave Bautista), and other criminals. It's time to call upon his Wing Chun skills once more.

Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy succeeds mostly thanks to its legendary director, Yuen Woo-ping, who is best known for choreographing the poetic fight scenes in The Matrix, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and the Kill Bill movies. He's still at the top of his game here, emphasizing clarity, fluidity, and beauty of movement; the impact is still violent, but — aside from the brutal murder of a woman — it's overall more exciting than it is shocking.

Another winning factor is the lead performance by Max Zhang (Pacific Rim: Uprising) in a strong but sympathetic role. He is fueled by his defeat at the hands of Ip Man, but he's not pathetic or whiny. He accepts his loss with dignity, and begins to take pride in his new roles as father and working man, and yet he still chooses to do the right thing, at great risk.

It's too bad that the other "stars" advertised so prominently (Yeoh, Bautista, and Jaa) have such small roles (and that Guardians of the Galaxy star Bautista's role is villainous), but once this spirited, hugely entertaining movie gets going, this ploy is easily forgiven.

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