The Final Master (" Shi Fu")

  • China
  • 2016
  • 109 mins
  • Mandarin
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Official Selection: Udine Far East Film Festival 2017, Night Visions 2017

“The most well-rounded action filmmaking since MAD MAX: FURY ROAD… proves that (Xu) is the next big thing in martial-arts cinema” – Simon Abrams, VILLAGE VOICE

Tianjin is renowned for its martial arts schools, so when Master Chen arrives in town with plans of establishing his own, the resistance he faces from the city’s martial arts establishment is not surprising, nor is it light. Chen, however, is the last person alive with a mastery of the formidable Wing Chun style, and to honour his teacher, he is driven to likewise pass the flame. The rules of Tianjin’s often shadowy world of fighters demand much of Chen – he must indulge in deceit, compromise his ethics, and train a champion to represent him (all while negotiating a fraught, semi-fraudulent marriage with lovely social outcast Zhao, certainly his equal in the battle of the sexes). Chen takes on the brash, impudent, but nonetheless brilliant young street punk Geng as his apprentice. As matters progress and Chen’s goal comes ever closer, the lines shift and the rules constantly change. Chen will have his victory – but at what cost?

After his startlingly good debut feature THE SWORD IDENTITY, and its sharp and clever follow-up JUDGE ARCHER, Chinese martial arts auteur Xu Haofeng completes a remarkable trilogy-in-spirit with the appropriately titled, tragicomic triumph THE FINAL MASTER. A dedicated scholar of the Chinese martial arts – their techniques, traditions, philosophies and politics – writer, award-winning choreographer and daringly distinct filmmaker Xu demands a maximal accuracy in his work… and confounds slower minds with his sly, arch, elliptical and devastatingly witty approach. Indeed, Xu handles his dialogue and storytelling as surely – and unpredictably – as his master fighters execute their attacks, and THE FINAL MASTER boasts a cast up to the task. Expect to laugh out loud, choke back some tears, gasp at amazing kung-fu combat – and of course, expect the unexpected.

- Rupert Bottenberg

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