Xu Haofeng wanted to revitalize the martial arts genre, and by bringing knives into the action he has certainly done that. He’s also thrown in a love story as sharp and as steely as any of those weapons. Both approaches are refreshing, and both were topics of conversation when I spoke with the filmmaker about THE FINAL MASTER via translator Yunyou Gan on May 31, 2016.
THE FINAL MASTER takes place in Tianjin in the 1930s. It was a time of chaos, and of the rise of militarism in response to social and political issues, the which Xu explained, as well as what he’d like his film to accomplish with audiences, his homage to Bruce Lee in the climactic final battle sequence set in a narrow alley (it’s amazing), as well as how he whipped his leading man, Fan Liao, into shape.
THE FINAL MASTER is a film about tradition, honor, and the ramifications of China becoming militarized in in the years leading up to World War II. Based on an award-winning novella by Xu, it tells the story of Chen Shi, a Wing Chung master who moves to Tianjin in order to open a school and preserve his brand of Wing Chung, one that uses a variety of knives. In order to do so, he must defeat the masters of eight of Tianjin’s other martial arts schools, a requirement that forces him to take on an apprentice that has had no previous training. Intrigue, double-crosses, and an unlikely romance with waitress who hates freeloaders frames some of the most exhilarating actions sequences seen on screen, including a climactic battle fought in a narrow alley with a virtual cornucopia of sharp-edged weapons. The film stars, Liao Fan, Song Jia, Song Yang, Jiang Wenli, Chin Shi-Chieh, Huang Jue, and Maidina as the Tea Girl with the healing hair. Xu directed from his own script which was based on his novella, and his previous work includes writing the script for War Kong Wei’s THE GRANDMASTER.