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Barely a sequel to the prior ”Ip Man“ movies, this pulpy crime tale still delivers the kích hoạt and a gloriously artificial Hong Kong

William Bibbiani | April 12, 2019

The cinematic odyssey of Ip Man — the real-life master of Wing Chun and, famously, instructor of Bruce Lee — continues with “Master Z: Ip Man Legacy.” But don’t expect Donnie Yen to lớn show up in this installment & don’t expect much in the way of historical fealty, narrative plausibility or serious examinations about human dignity or the ethics of kung fu.

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Expect, instead, a spin-off about Ip Man’s rival from “Ip Man 3,” Cheung Tin bỏ ra (Zhang Jin, “Pacific Rim: Uprising”). After his secret defeat at the hands of Ip Man, Cheung Tin bỏ ra became a mercenary — so briefly that it barely impacts the story. After retiring, he sets up a tiny grocery and tries to lớn raise his son in peace, but a chance encounter with opium dealers leads to one giant fight sequence after another.

The story of “Master Z” is frustratingly muddled, và Cheung Tin đưa ra has very little to do with it. He runs afoul of a criminal named Tso không đúng Kit (Kevin Cheng, “Badges of Fury”), who exacts his revenge by burning his grocery store down. But then our nhân vật takes up with the owners of a local tavern, which happens to have be patronized by Tso không đúng Kit’s sister, Tso Ngan Kwan (Michelle Yeoh), who is also a major crime boss who’s trying lớn go straight.

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Brother betrays sister, opium addicts die, police corruption runs rampant and Dave Bautista just hangs out for most of the film, looking lượt thích he’s waiting to vì something badass. Bautista plays Owen Davidson, an American entrepreneur in Hong Kong, who’s so incredibly polite khổng lồ our heroes and their kids — & humblebrags so much about his philanthropic endeavors — that he might as well have “I’m the bad guy” tattooed on his forehead. It’s not like they’re going to get Dave Bautista in this movie & not let him fight the hero. (At least he’s a better actor than Mike Tyson was in “Ip Man 3.”)

“Master Z” comes from director Yuen Woo Ping, and it’s nothing short of an action-movie-lover’s delight khổng lồ see him working with Michelle Yeoh again, in a movie about Wing Chun no less. Yeoh only gets one proper fight in “Master Z” (unless you count beating someone lớn death with an abacus), but it’s a good one, and it ends beautifully.

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In many respects “Master Z” is a beautiful production. The art direction by Raymond Chan (“The Mermaid”) brings the neon streets of Hong Kong lớn attractive life, with cascading rows of giant signage that are quickly utilized for high-flying stunts & imaginative choreography. The whole film looks just a little fake, but in that Technicolor MGM-musical way that feels like a warm blanket.

But following the three “Ip Man” movies with “Master Z” is a bit like following the first three “Rocky” movies with “The Fast và the Furious.” If you squint you can see a few thematic connections, but it’s a broad departure from the tone of the rest of the series. Wilson Yip’s films were (at best) loose historical fiction và had their fair share of over-the-top fight sequences, & yet their earnestness was unmistakable. They were broad dramatizations of key cultural moments, in which caretakers of Chinese martial arts found their livelihoods, their art và their dignity challenged by oppressors of all kinds. Overcoming those adversities was rousing & pure.

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“Master Z” is pretty much just a pulpy crime movie, and although it’s not a bad one, it can’t help but comes across as rather adolescent compared khổng lồ those other entries. It’s got characters so arch they cook steaks for everyone they kill, and then get bummed out when they die before they can eat them. It’s got a little kid practically praying over a knockoff Batman music box (sorry, “Black Bat”) for his father khổng lồ beat up the bad guys. Và just when you think the movie will address some of the broad systemic issues it brings into the mix, lượt thích a wildly corrupt police force that shirks the law in front of crowds, the film cops out with, essentially, a mega-happy ending.

Frankly, big chunks of “Master Z: The Legacy of Ip Man” are so broad they’re almost goofy. The fights ảo diệu for it, và the great ensemble makes this broad world semi-believable. It’s a step down for the “Ip Man” series, but it’s still within punching distance, so don’t take your eyes off it. It’ll get you.