Movie review of “The Final Master”: This is a Chinese martial-arts movie of rich visual beauty and intricate narrative complexity. Rating. 3.5 stars out of 4.
The clang of steel on steel. The cries and grunts of men fiercely fighting.
Those are the sounds that resonate through “The Final Master,” a Chinese martial-arts movie of rich visual beauty and intricate narrative complexity.
Set in China in 1932, it tells the tale of Master Chen (Liao Fan), a kung-fu expert from the south who comes to the city of Tianjin, the center of martial arts in the north, to open a school to teach his particular style of fighting, Wing-Chun. That’s viewed as a kind of heresy in the closed world of practitioners of the northern styles of kung fu, and so a plot of interlocking intrigues unfolds as Chen schemes to break into that world.
Movie Review ★★★½
‘The Final Master,’ with Liao Fan, Song Jia, Song Yang. Written and directed by Xu Haofeng. 109 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains violence, sexual situations). In Mandarin, with English subtitles. Pacific Place.
An apprentice, Geng Liangechen (Song Yang), recruited by Chen to be a kind of stalking horse for his heretical style, is a major component of the plot. The virile young man has eyes for his master’s lovely wife, Zhao Guo Hui (Song Jia), and so complexities, both marital and martial, metastasize from there.
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Written and directed by Xu Haofeng, himself a student of kung fu and the co-screenwriter of Wong Kar-wai’s somewhat similarly themed “The Grandmaster,” the film’s action scenes are masterpieces of stately choreography, with elements of humor incorporated. In one, Chen fights off a gang of attackers while seated on a bench calmly delivering a significant chunk of background exposition to his wife sitting beside him.
In the climactic battle, set in a narrow brick alley, he dispatches an army of blade-bearing kung-fu masters (big swords are their weapons of choice) while he himself is armed only with a pair of expertly wielded knives. And does so without getting a single drop of blood on his immaculate white suit and shiny white shoes. That’s martial-arts mastery of the highest order.