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The Grandmaster Reviews

Wesley Morris
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The movie's problems are, in part, those of a great artist trying something new. It's a fine mess.

Full Review Source: Grantland

January 3, 2014
Rene Rodriguez
Miami Herald
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The Grandmaster blends right in with Wong's body of work, a gorgeous meditation on the importance of sorrow and lament. This one just happens to have kung fu, too.

Full Review Source: Miami Herald | Original Score: 3.5/4

August 31, 2013
Cary Darling
Fort Worth Star-Telegram/
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It ranks with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero and House of Flying Daggers as one of the most elegant and beautiful martial-arts films to play American screens.

Full Review Source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram/ | Original Score: 4/5

August 30, 2013
Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
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You leave this deeply flawed, deeply beautiful film with no doubt that you've seen an indisputable cinematic grandmaster in action.

Full Review Source: Rolling Stone | Original Score: 3/4

August 30, 2013
Steven Rea
Philadelphia Inquirer
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Wong Kar Wai is an expressionist master. A master of character - deep, rich, truthful character - especially in The Grandmaster, he is not.

Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer | Original Score: 2.5/4

August 30, 2013
Tom Long
Detroit News
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"The Grandmaster" can feel stiff at times, and something is doubtlessly lost in translation. But the precision and magic of Wong Kar Wai's camera is so captivating it doesn't matter.

Full Review Source: Detroit News | Original Score: B+

August 30, 2013
Walter V. Addiego
San Francisco Chronicle
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Beautiful but troubled, achieving in stretches the director's signature dreamy mood but dragged down by narrative confusions.

Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle | Original Score: 2/4

August 29, 2013
Bill Stamets
Chicago Sun-Times
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Granted, "The Grandmaster" is not a primer on Chinese philosophy. Yet it may score as crossover cinema for Wong fans and Lee fans.

Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times | Original Score: 3/4

August 29, 2013
Peter Keough
Boston Globe
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As a kung fu film, "The Grandmaster," with its exhilarating fighting sequences, won't disappoint. As a Wong Kar-wai film, it rates high.

Full Review Source: Boston Globe | Original Score: 3/4

August 29, 2013
Soren Anderson
Seattle Times
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Writer-director Wong Kar-wai has made a martial-arts movie that is truly a work of art. His "The Grandmaster" is a picture of staggering beauty.

Full Review Source: Seattle Times | Original Score: 3.5/4

August 29, 2013
Mark Jenkins
Washington Post
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The director took great efforts to be true to Chinese martial arts, but he did so without sacrificing his own distinctive vision.

Full Review Source: Washington Post | Original Score: 3/4

August 29, 2013
Michael Sragow
Orange County Register
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The fights that dot this erratically told story of kung fu grandmaster Ip Man can leave you giddy with excitement.

Full Review Source: Orange County Register | Original Score: B

August 29, 2013
John Anderson
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"The Grandmaster" is the work of a director whose work throughout his career has been visually exhilarating, sensuous, even sublime. To that end, "The Grandmaster" doesn't disappoint.

Full Review Source: Newsday | Original Score: 2.5/4

August 29, 2013
Randy Cordova
Arizona Republic
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The movie ultimately winds up falling between two stools, failing as both a biography and an action film.

Full Review Source: Arizona Republic | Original Score: 2/5

August 29, 2013
Colin Covert
Minneapolis Star Tribune
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A deliriously beautiful martial-arts saga, a mix of exuberant violence and restrained eroticism.

Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune | Original Score: 4/4

August 29, 2013
Joe Williams
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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Whereas many kung-fu movies are a feast that leaves us weary with sensations, the tastefully bittersweet "Grandmaster" puts us in the mood for more.

Full Review Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Original Score: 3/4

August 29, 2013
Ben Sachs
Chicago Reader
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The action choreography (by the great Yuen Woo-ping) feels oddly rhythmless; likewise, Wong's depictions of the larger-than-life characters achieve little emotional resonance.

Full Review Source: Chicago Reader

August 29, 2013
Alonso Duralde
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Still, a butchered Wong Kar-Wai movie is better than most filmmakers' purest work, so even if the plot occasionally zips by at too quick a clip, The Grandmaster is a lush, albeit rushed, meal that's worth consuming on the big screen.

Full Review Source: TheWrap

August 23, 2013
Peter Rainer
Christian Science Monitor
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I've never been a big fan of Wong's phantasmagoric prettiness, but at least here it provides a welcome corrective to the usual martial-arts mayhem.

Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor | Original Score: B

August 23, 2013
Peter Howell
Toronto Star
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Ip Man's story has been told many times before by other filmmakers. Wong builds upon it, establishing the noble fighter as a reflective but still ferocious grandmaster in 1936 in Foshan, Ip Man's home city in southern China.

Full Review Source: Toronto Star | Original Score: 2.5/4

August 23, 2013
Bilge Ebiri
New York Magazine/Vulture
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It's hard not to feel that with this, Wong's first feature since 2007's misbegotten My Blueberry Nights, a dear old friend is finally back in the room.

Full Review Source: New York Magazine/Vulture

August 23, 2013
Liam Lacey
Globe and Mail
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There are sequences in Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai's new film, The Grandmaster, that are as gorgeous as anything you'll see on a screen this year, or perhaps this decade.

Full Review Source: Globe and Mail | Original Score: 2.5/4

August 23, 2013
V.A. Musetto
New York Post
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Wong extracts magnetic performances from his two stars, and Philippe Le Sourd delivers gorgeous cinematography.

Full Review Source: New York Post | Original Score: 3/4

August 23, 2013
Joe Morgenstern
Wall Street Journal
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For those who aren't ardent students of kung fu's schools and styles, however, the movie is, for most of its length, a lifeless snore.

Full Review Source: Wall Street Journal

August 22, 2013
Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times
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You'll feel decadent enjoying it, but everything is so tasty, it would be foolish to object.

Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times | Original Score: 4/5

August 22, 2013
Scott Bowles
USA Today
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An historical opus that is equal parts ballet and biography, though the second component pales in comparison with the first.

Full Review Source: USA Today | Original Score: 3/4

August 22, 2013
Manohla Dargis
New York Times
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However much history informs this movie, "The Grandmaster" is, at its most persuasive, about the triumph of style.

Full Review Source: New York Times | Original Score: 4/5

August 22, 2013
Joe Neumaier
New York Daily News
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An exquisite-looking, fitfully moving drama from the director of "In the Mood for Love."

Full Review Source: New York Daily News | Original Score: 3/5

August 22, 2013
A.A. Dowd
AV Club
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More than anything Wong has ever made, the movie chokes on exposition, its more poetic concerns stifled by its surfeit of plot.

Full Review Source: AV Club | Original Score: B-

August 22, 2013
Andrew O'Hehir
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All I know is that I got lost in it, and that I would still have loved it if it were twice as long with half the action.

Full Review Source:

August 21, 2013
Owen Gleiberman
Entertainment Weekly
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The film, despite a few splendid fights, is a biohistorical muddle that never finds its center.

Full Review Source: Entertainment Weekly | Original Score: C+

August 21, 2013
Joshua Rothkopf
Time Out New York
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Wong has done this dynamic better in virtually all of his past work; there's a pretty dullness here that shouldn't be confused for mastery.

Full Review Source: Time Out New York | Original Score: 3/5

August 21, 2013
Drew Grant
New York Observer
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It's a little like getting Jim Jarmusch to direct a film about Spider-Man.

Full Review Source: New York Observer | Original Score: 2.5/4

August 21, 2013
Stephanie Zacharek
Village Voice
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The 108-minute Grandmaster may not be the shimmering golden epic he originally intended, but it's fleet and silvery in its own right.

Full Review Source: Village Voice

August 20, 2013
Maggie Lee
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Venturing into fresh creative terrain without relinquishing his familiar themes and stylistic flourishes, Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar Wai exceeds expectations with The Grandmaster.

Full Review Source: Variety

August 19, 2013
Clarence Tsui
Hollywood Reporter
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A scintillating mix of explosive action choreography and suppressed emotions, but it could have used more work on consistency in tone and character development.

Full Review Source: Hollywood Reporter

August 19, 2013
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