Movie Review – The Final Master – FILM-MOMATIC REVIEWS


“The Final Master” “Shi fu” (original title) (2015)

Genre: drama

Cast: Fan Liao, Jia Song, Wenli Jiang, Shih-Chieh King, Yang Song, Madina Memet, Jue Huang, Aoyue Zhang, Jun Ma, Kuan Tai Chen, Xin Xin Xiong, Leon Dai, Jirong Qiu, Bo Li, Jiahao Zou, Karina, and many others.

Awards: 17 wins and 21 nominations

I went looking for other movies with Fan Liao after seeing him in 2014’s, “Black Coal, Thin Ice,” and I wasn’t disappointed! Unfortunately, the library system didn’t have it, so I ended up buying it. (I actually think it’s available on Netflix now.) Fortunately, this meant it was here last weekend to re-watch. It was even better the second time around as there is so much plot going on that it was hard to absorb it all the first time.

Firstly, I am a fan of martial arts movies, so I’ve watched quite a few of them.Secondly, I’m a trained martial artist, even though I haven’t practiced since the90s. When I was active I was blessed to have seen a few of the weapons used inthe film up close being wielded by exceptional martial artists at my old dojo(martial arts training school) or while visiting other dojos. What sets The Final Master apart from so many other martial arts movies is that almost all of the fight scenes involve close-ups with the weapons.

Set in the 1930’s, Chen Shi (played by Liao) is the last student of his Wing Chun style Master in Canton, in Southern China. His master has died, which means heis the last practitioner of it and he promised his sensei that he would keep Wing Chun alive. He travels north to Tianjin, which is a martial arts hub with manywell-established dojos and connects with the Grandmaster Zheng Shan’ao(played by King) to get advice on how to get approval to set up his own school.The conversation involves how each style keeps its techniques secret and that is why Wing Chun is precariously threatened with dying out and talks about sharing secrets so all can keep them alive and vibrant. The Grandmaster says that at least 8 of the existing dojos must be challenged to a fight and won before there can be any consideration of allowing him to open a dojo in Tianjin. He also states it cannot be Chen Shi who fights; it has to be his apprentice and the apprentice must come from Tianjin. It is expected that it will take any apprentice at least 3years to get up to speed. The Grandmaster says he knows of some good candidates that Chen Shi can take on to train, but Chen Shi prefers to find his own. He has pressing matters in Canton and doesn’t have 3 years to waste, but he decides to try to meet the challenge as he made a promise.

Keeping a low profile, Chen Shi lives in a humble home. He goes out for dinner at a night club with Zheng Shan’ao and finds himself drawn to the hostess, Zhao Guohui (played by Jia Song) of the place. He finds out that Zhao was a teenage mother whose baby was taken from her and sold. Further the unwed pregnancy makes her “tainted” and thus unmarriable to anyone respectable. Chen Shioffers to marry Zhao with a pretty sweet deal.

Way leads on to way. One day a couple of young street laborers are struck by Zhao’s beauty and decide to follow her home. When Chen Shi gets home and they see him, one of the young men skedaddles but one, Geng Liangchen(played by Yang Song) decides to fight for Zhao in a knife challenge. Chen Shiinstantly recognizes Geng Liangchen’s natural fighting skills and selects him as his apprentice.

The main villain is Master (Madame) Zou (played by Liang.) She’s beauty and the beast, like a fragrant flower that shoots poisoned darts into you when you bend down to smell it.

And so begins this tale of romance, intrigue, politics, honor, and deceit, all intricately woven with the martial arts backdrop.

What I liked about the movie are the sets, which are lavish, as are the costumes.The cinematography is excellent, as is the fight scene choreography. The actors are first-rate. The chemistry between Chen Shi and Zhao is off the charts! The plot is complex which elevates it from many other martial arts movies.

The Final Master (2015) - Rotten Tomatoes

The only thing I can say I didn’t like about it is how short it was; too bad another30 minutes couldn’t have been added to flesh out certain story lines. I also don’t like the fact it didn’t get the type of promotion so many other movies get that aren’t half as good.

Lessons learned: there are those who still exist that have honor, integrity, and commitment; love can be found when you least expect it.

Score from 1-10: 8.5+


  1. Pingback: 2021 MOVIE DRAFT- ROUND 8 PICK 5- MSJADELI SELECTS- THE FINAL MASTER — slicethelife – Tao Talk·

  2. This sounds really good. I have seen Wing Chun demonstrated at my former Dojo. It’s a Geisha style of MA, geared for the women in the Geisha outfits…close in fighting…no roundhouse kicks and stuff like that (or, so we were told during the demonstration). It was cool to watch.

    I got as far as Yon-Kyu (purple belt) in Isshin-Ryu karate (old Okinawan style developed by Master Tatsuo Shimabuku). I also had some training in a blended style called Neko-Ryu Goshin Jitsu. Miss that stuff from the 90s. So many dojos are gone, now.

    • I bet you’d like it, Vic, especially since you’ve got martial arts training history. I reached black belt after many years in the American Karate System, which was created by Mr. Ernest Lieb, who took the best from the 4 main styles (Chinese, Okinawan, Korean, Japanese) with suiting the American body in mind. Mr. Lieb was the first non-Korean to win the Korean Nationals, forgot the year. When I got divorced in 1994, I left the club because it would have been awkward with my now-ex being there. He and my kids continued there. The kids didn’t stick with it (I think they got to green belt.) but my -ex kept going for at least some years later.

    • Yikes. Yeah. Training with a fresh ex? OY. And, you can’t just pick up and move to the Dojo down the block. At least, not in my hometown. My dojo was IT back then.

      A few years ago, I attempted to learn some Aikido. The teachers weren’t very good. They also taught Tai Chi and were more into that, Aikido suffering in the process. And, no different Dojo down the block to try.

      When I started yoga in Texas in 2008, my yoga teacher told me that some of my movements in class were “different.” You wouldn’t think that martial arts training would show up in yoga but, it apparently did to her.


      My two Senseis were both Marines and had been stationed in Okinawa (as was my ex-Marine but, much later). Master Ernie Cates (my Neko-Ryu Goshin Jitsu Sensei) trained with Master Don Nagle:

      My first Sensei, Danny Glover (not the Lethal Weapon Glover):

      He did some stunts and was one of the foot soldiers in two of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies. 🐢 😄

    • Glad Hans found your message! One thing about this movie draft is that I keep looking for comments on my picks in my scrollee comment thing and then remember it’s posted on a different blog. Glad you kept watching for your comment.

      Very cool on your senseis and their senseis! Don Nagle’s name rings a bell for sure. Mr. Lieb was a friend/associate (not sure how close they were, but he came to town to race his power boat in our lake) of Chuck Norris. Strange but true. He also was friends with Tadashi Yamashita, who came to teach a clinic in one of our dojos years back.

      Do you still practice yoga? I took a tai qi class several years back now but it felt “too slow” at the time. I think I’m at the right speed for it now, just need to see if it’s being taught around here. Yoga would be good too to keep limber.

    • I do the same. I try to come back and check on comments to make sure I don’t miss any. We only get notices of response from Hans site if we reply to each other in a conversation. Other visitors in separate comments, no. I’m the special child. Frequently, my comments wander off into SPAM because I can be a link monster and the WP SPAM police get testy. 👨‍✈️👩‍✈️👿

      Master Cates was also very big into Judo. He was 10th Don in that….mover & a shaker, Hall of Fame stuff. He always kept his Marine “high & tight” and, smoked like chimney & drank like fish. But, he was tough & quick, even in his advanced age. I remember one Friday night in class. He called me forward for some simple self defense moves. I was chief uke that night. 😉 OMG. To demonstrate breaking a holding technique and focus, he told me to hold one of his wrists as tightly as possible. I did. He broke free so fast and slapped me in the head about four times before I even realized what happened. 😆

      I think all the big dogs in MA knew each other on some level. I met Master Nagle once when he came for a visit to the dojo. Imposing figure. Yamashita taught some things to Bruce Lee.

      I was in active practice for a decade. I never got over losing my first teacher. I was with her for three years and, when I left Texas, no one could match her. Her’s was a way of life, not a “job.” Too many have gone thru these “yoga training” level things like climbing a corporate ladder. Even worse, many spewed politics into their classes. Yoga & politics are incompatible, no matter what part of the spectrum you sit on. Yoga is so much more than a physical practice. My last good teacher in this area moved away and I gave up. I stopped subscribing to Yoga magazines because they became full of advertisements that were counter to real Yoga and the articles were smelling of the politics. Don’t tell me how to think.

      Yoga, as an industry, is pretty much dead. Yoga in a group is refreshing and aligning. Each member draws on the others for strength. There is a sharing of energy. I’ve walked out of many a class with the equivalent of a “runner’s high”, particularly with my first teacher. It eases your soul, mind & body. I’m not kidding in the slightest.

      In the “age of covid”, there is no group yoga. You can NOT wear a mask and do yoga. It is as physically impossible to do yoga with a mask as it is to eat with one. Most yoga studios are intimate. All the yoga teachers left in my town shut down their classes. I’ve seen one small group try to gather in the Riverpark, once…last year. That was it.

      I occasionally do my own practice but, missing the group energy is awful.

    • I actually went looking for the Aikido when I went to my hometown dojo. The original owner taught it. When I returned for sign up, there had been a change in ownership and I met Sensei Glover. He had just arrived from the original Isshin-Ryu dojo in Jacksonville that Master Nagle & Master Cates had set up. Master Nagle went back to New Jersey at some point and Master Cates turned the dojo over to another Marine black belt. They, for some reason, moved up to my hometown and took over the other guy’s dojo. Sensei Glover was all excited to teach me Isshin-Ryu so…off I went. Aikido became an afterthought.

    • It looks really cool. Bailey is filming right now for a contest but this week we should be able to watch it. I have this one and a movie Pam brought up the other day in line. I love the blogs for this reason.

      Last week I re-watched the Last Picture Show because of CB.

    • Happy to hear Bailey is filming (that rolls off the tongue very nicely.) I’m halfway through another one I’ll be putting into the draft but it will be a secret until the big reveal.

    • I’m having a lot of fun putting these together. Looking forward to your silent comedy 🙂 I have also finished the next one and turned it in. I wrote it while my DIL was in labor, to take my mind off of it. Mine’s in the crime genre.

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