Film Review : The Grandmaster (2013)

IMDB Score – 6.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 74%

Directed By – Wong Kar Wai
Starring – Tony Leung, Ziyi Zhang, Chen Chang, Xiao Shen-Yang, and Zhao Benshan

The story of martial-arts master Ip Man, the man who trained Bruce Lee.

When I first heard that Wong Kar Wai was going to be directed a film about Ip Man, I was both excited and a little peeved. We’ve seen the Ip Man films. We’ve seen them recently. We really don’t need another film about Ip Man. However, when a person like Wong Kar Wai is directing a film like this, you have to have faith. What we finally end up with in The Grandmaster is a very serviceable film.

What I liked…

If Gravity didn’t come out this year, The Grandmaster would be the most beautiful film of 2013. It is visually stunning. The film starts out with an amazing fight scene taking place in a torrential downpour. It’s dark. It’s wet. Yet, every punch and kick is seen and felt which has been a problem in action movies recently. Wong Kar Wai uses a slowed down camera to make sure that each fight seen is taken in as whole instead of a frantic flash of limbs and bodies. Each frame is a carefully constructed painting and honestly, I’m not surprised. Wong Kar Wai has been making beautiful films for two decades and this is one of his most visually achieving films that matches 2000’s In the Mood for Love. The acting was great as Tony Leung and Ziyi Zhang has wonderful on screen chemistry. The soundtrack, which is a key character in every Wong Kar Wai film is also fantastic.

What I didn’t like…

The story was a bit muddled. Wong Kar Wai has always had a non linear storyline. This is more linear than usual but what we are given instead is a very bundled plot trying to do way too much This is a biography not only of Ip Man but also a telling of what the country of China looked like from the 1920s until the 50s. There’s a lot og history in there and I really couldn’t get a grip on what was going on emotionally. This led to me not really caring too much about the charcters involved. There were also a bunch of annoying cue cards displaying history information and time changes. I felt Kar Wai was being a little to nice to American viewers but like I said before, it helped make things less confusing. It was just aesthetically ugly.

Overall it was a gorgeous film and an average story rolled up into one. It’s definitely a film to check out of you like Wong Kar Wai and kung fu films.


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