Director: Yuen Woo-ping
Cast: Zhang Jin, Dave Bautista, Michelle Yeoh, Liu Yan, Chrissie Chau, Kevin Cheng, Shi Yanneng, Tony Jaa
Remember the Wing Chun master who challenged Ip Man himself at the end of Ip Man 3? Apparently he was popular enough a character that he got his own spin-off movie.
Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy is set after that climatic fight, which Wing Chun master Cheung Tin Chi (Zhang Jin) lost. He closes his Wing Chun academy after that loss and keeps a low profile - moonlighting as a mercenery for a while, before leaving the martial arts world altogether to lead a quiet life as a grocery storekeeper.
He even decides to give up using Wing Chun altogether, relegating his wooden training dummy to a mere clothes hanger.
Of course, even when he doesn't go looking for it, trouble naturally comes to him. While on a delivery run, he is dragged into helping opium junkie Nana (Chrissie Chau) and her best friend, Julia (Liu Yan) to escape a group of gangsters led by Kit (Kevin Cheng).
After that, Kit decides to make life a living hell for Cheung and his son, leading him to seek refuge with Julia and her brother Fu (Shi Yanneng), a bar owner on the notorious Bar Street.
However, his new life is interrupted once again by Kit, who is sick of being overlooked by his sister Kwan (Michelle Yeoh), leader of the Cheung Lok triad their father founded, and decides to sell drugs on Bar Street behind her back.
Plot-wise, there's nothing we haven't seen before when it comes to movies like this. Former martial artist gives up the fighting life for a normal one, but is forced back into action in order to survive? We've seen that in dozens of other Hong Kong kungfu movies before.
But you don't go for an Ip Man movie (even one without Ip Man himself) for the story, especially when it is directed by the one and only Yuen Woo-ping.
As expected, the action is the main draw of Master Z, with Yuen keeping the fights going even when there seems little reason for the fight in the first place. One high wire fight atop the neon signboards of Hong Kong is particularly well executed, while a straight out brawl in Kwan's office is an old school hark back to the good old Hong Kong action movies of the 1980s.
It's also great to see Yeoh in a good old Hong Kong martial arts movie once more, and she's definitely not lost her kungfu touch. Besides holding her own in the action sequences, she also exudes a powerful presence as the leader of a triad who is trying to go legit.
While we already know that Zhang can fight, he showed in Ip Man 3 that he could pull off the tortured martial arts master role perfectly. He's no Donnie Yen, of course, but he does have a certain steely charisma that makes for a convincing hero.
Special mention should also go to Dave Bautista, who does his best with the stereotypical role he is given - that of a foreign gangster with the police under his thumb. His one-on-one fight with Zhang is one of the movie's highlights, and he even gets to pull off his signature WWE move, the Batista Bomb, at one point!
All in all, Master Z is a decent martial arts flick that may not push the envelope in terms of story, but is action-packed enough to satiate your thirst for more Wing Chun wizardry, at least until Ip Man 4 is released next year.