The Grandmaster

2013

The Grandmaster

Critics Consensus

Though its storytelling is a tad muddled, Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster still exhibits the auteur's stylistic flourishes in gorgeous cinematography and explosive action set pieces.

78%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 132

58%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 17,661
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Movie Info

Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Wong Kar Wai, THE GRANDMASTER is an epic action feature inspired by the life and times of the legendary kung fu master, Ip Man. The story spans the tumultuous Republican era that followed the fall of China's last dynasty, a time of chaos, division and war that was also the golden age of Chinese martial arts. Filmed in a range of stunning locations that include the snow-swept landscapes of Northeast China and the subtropical South, THE GRANDMASTER features virtuoso performances by some of the greatest stars of contemporary Asian cinema, including Tony Leung and Ziyi Zhang.(c) Weinstein

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Critic Reviews for The Grandmaster

All Critics (132) | Top Critics (40)

  • Wong Kar-wei's The Grandmaster is one of the more exquisite martial arts movies around, as the Hong Kong auteur behind the lyrical In the Mood for Love takes on the legend of Ip Man.

    Dec 4, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Kate Muir

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • As a film-maker, Wong appears to be retreating upriver into genre, style and mannerism. It is all managed very elegantly - but with a fraction of the power in his greatest work.

    Dec 4, 2014 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • It is rich, distinctive and lush, as you would expect, although this new feature from Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai has been a long time coming.

    Sep 4, 2014 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • The movie's problems are, in part, those of a great artist trying something new. It's a fine mess.

    Jan 3, 2014 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Aug 31, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4
  • 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.

    Aug 30, 2013 | Rating: 4/5

Audience Reviews for The Grandmaster

  • Mar 30, 2014
    This is definitely a kung fu film done by an art house filmmaker. Just the way everything is shot, even the choreography of the fights itself, feels like a product of one person's vision and ideas, without any creative interference from anyone else. The film is absolutely beautiful to look at and the fight sequences themselves feel more like very tightly choreographed dance sequences. That might sound like a negative to some people, but I found it to be a positive. There's this dance-like quality to the moves and how they go back and forth, it feels very much like a dance and I found these scenes to be beautifully choreographed. It's a shame, however, that the film has absolutely no story to speak of. Yes, there's hints of it here and there. There's themes of loyalty, adapting with the times versus staying in the past, the importance of family, etc. But this does not tell a coherent story. These would all be great themes in a more tightly-scripted story. The fact of the matter is that the film goes all over the place and, for the most part, it feels like the story is just there to get you to the next fight scene. The story definitely takes a backseat to the visuals and to the fight sequences themselves, and in some ways it succeeds as I did find the film to be pretty good. But this isn't better, or more compelling, than the two Ip Man films that Donnie Yen did. It's certainly more artistic than those two films I've mentioned, but it's not even close to better. While I'm sure the first Ip Man, because the second one is like Rocky 4 in a kung fu setting, has its heavily dramatized moments it feels like a proper film about the man's life. This film doesn't really do much of that and, hell, by the end, the film is more about Gong Er's relationship with her father and her desire to keep her family's legacy in the right hands. I thought this was, actually, among the better parts of the film's story as the real heroine of the film happens to be Gong Er and not Ip Man himself. And I thought that was a nice little twist to the story. But if that was the endgame, then the film should've focused more on Gong Er instead of Ip Man. That's why I think the films Donnie Yen did are so much better. There's also some really corny dialogue after the last fight between Gong Er and Yutian about how Gong and Ip were fated to meet each other, etc, etc. So this is definitely a film with flaws, all of them in the story direction, but I still think the film offers enough beautifully choreographed action scenes and incredible visuals to make this at least a good film. It's not something I would recommend, but it is a solid film nonetheless.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Mar 02, 2014
    Kung-fu is not a genre of action film that I am often drawn to. Even when I saw the trailer for "The Grandmaster", I wrote it off slightly, but the pacing, the storytelling, and the lore of Ip Man achieves greatness no matter what the genre. Nominated for two Academy Awards, in Best Costume Design and Best Cinematography, the film reaches admirable levels of both, but reaches much further, producing amazing performances and an intriguing story of a nation divided and a man that is less a hero and more a temple of martial arts knowledge. A man that weathered the storm and went on to teach the greats, including one of the most popular martial artists of our time, Bruce Lee. Beginning in the pouring rain, we are subject to witness Ip Man (played by Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) fight a number of combatants. Kung-fu is hard enough to catch on film correctly, but it becomes a dance for Le Sourd, involving the camera movements gliding gracefully along the masters as they battle one another from room to room from street to street. With the camera dancing alongside the fighters, producing rich visuals throughout the choreography of fighting, it's hard to deny the actors in these roles, convincing the audience that they are grandmasters, indeed. Soon, Gong Yutian (Wang Qingxiang) from the North arrives in the South to announce his retirement and his successor, but places a challenge for a South successor as well. With Ip Man picked to represent the other grandmasters, the passing of knowledge from a handful of fellow grandmasters commences in one of the most appealing bouts of storytelling of the film. Along with Gong Yutian comes his daughter Gong Er, played by the gorgeously talented Zhang Ziyi of "House Of Flying Daggers" and "Memoirs Of A Geisha" fame. Let the untouchable romance begin. A battle of wits ensues between Ip Man and Gong Yutian, leaving Ip Man victorious. Sharing a few moments together, Ip Man and Gong Er decide to keep in touch, despite Ip Man already being married. The Second Sino-Japanese War of 1938 breaks out in the South, forcing Ip Man to take work in Hong Kong, never actually keeping in touch with Gong Er. The rest of the film plays out like a Greek tragedy. To top it all off, this entire film is based on some sort of fact, mythology if you will, despite its fantastical nature. With a convincing cast and visual styling that breathes authenticity, you forget you're watching a film and begin to experience the feeling of watching archival footage play in front of your eyes. The costumes are memorable in "The Grandmaster", especially that of the women, and in particular, the leading lady and her fur coats. But the costumes become part of the story as Ip Man brings to the audience's attention that he never wears suits, except for a single ID photo and the winter coats he purchases but then has to sell to feed his family. Zhang Ziyi, alone, is worth viewing the film for, on top of some of the most amazing displays of martial arts you'll ever see on film. Filled with impressive kung-fu battles and with some stellar scenes in the pouring rain, there is a distinct feel to the visuals in this film captured by Philippe Le Sourd and for that, "The Grandmaster" becomes a kung-fu film that breaks its boundaries and produces a period piece action film that I highly enjoyed.
    Christopher H Super Reviewer
  • Feb 28, 2014
    The cinematography, no matter what the screenplay is like, how the acting is, or even if the direction was awful, really sold me on this film. Everything technical needs to be praised before any negativity, because this films' visuals will blow your mind. I could not look away from the screen at any moment during the fight sequences, because the choreography and camera work was so beautiful and deserves it's Oscar nomination. Now on to the story. It is a very well-told and well-paced screenplay, but the film is a lot of style, and seems like it overshadows everything. To me, it took me out of the film's messages a bit, but that is always why it has it's nomination, so it's a bit of a tug of war. The acting is very good and the direction is not bad, although it seems he left it up to the cinematographer to plan the action sequences for him. At it's core, this film centers the Ip Man, who would move onto his later years after this film, to be Bruce Lee's trainer. I will definitely recommend this film to people who enjoy true stories or martial arts, but I think that is as far as it will reach. I really enjoyed watching this film though!
    KJ P Super Reviewer
  • Feb 18, 2014
    Wong Kar-Wai seems only concerned about his irritating aesthetics in this hugely unfocused mess that even includes a useless narration and inexplicably irrelevant characters like The Razor - not to mention the use of a theme from Once Upon a Time in America for no clear reason.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer

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