THE FINAL MASTER (SHI FU) – A Review By Nick Askam

 

The film that opened the 16th annual Asian Film Festival of Dallas. The film that would lead me to once again remember why I love Asian films so much. This film captivated the audience and kept us engaged during its rather short running time. I can say that after watching many of the other films, that this movie was the correct choice to show first.

This film stars Liao Fan, Song Jia, Jiang Wenli, and Chin Shih-Chich and was directed by Xu Haofeng. It is a period film and is set in the 1930’s in China. The Final Master is about a Wing Chun Master who wants to open up a school to teach more people the art. In his way, he must have an apprentice or himself defeat 8 other schools, and there is a lady who leads a secret organization that is trying to stop him.

Through the twists and turns of the film, the martial arts are amazing. Each fight scene holds so much weight and the choreography is spectacular. Each scene is set up to mean something and the film never holds your hand. It is a full-on action movie that wowed the audience several times. The acting to counter-balance the film was also impeccable and there was no other way to describe it other than mesmerizing. At times, it was almost like the actors were dancing on screen and then creating believable characters that were fun to root for.

My one and only complaint for this film was that the score felt like it was being overused at times. There were some moments where I enjoyed their sound effects and song choices. There were others that it felt stale and like it needed something else to make it feel alive and fresh. I understand the idea was that it made us feel what we initially felt when we heard the song/ noise, but it just made it feel like they accidentally looped the film and we were watching it over again. The score was excellent, but I only needed to hear it one time.

Overall, I really enjoyed this film. I thought it was fun and showed off a martial arts style that we don’t see that frequently. All of the action was impeccably choreographed and was entertaining to watch each time. The plot kept me engaged and wanting to pay more attention as the film went on. There were some parts that are mildly difficult to follow if you don’t understand Chinese/ martial arts culture, but I think overall, it wasn’t that difficult to understand. I had a great time watching this film and thought it was a great way to start off the festival.

 

Grade: B+