The Grandmaster 2013- A Short Review
Way back in 2012 I was overwhelmingly tantalized with the international trailer for the upcoming Wong Kar Wai epic The Grandmaster. Set during the tumultuous Republican era in China, this story centers around Ip Man who has become the subject of many films since Donnie Yen’s hit 2008 film simply titled “Ip Man”. Don’t worry, I never give out spoilers.
Soon after the fall of China’s last dynasty, the country fell into a chaotic state. Many see this time as a “golden age” for martial arts because this was the period that saw the rise of some of the fiercest, most effective combative arts in the world. Four of these very arts, Wing Chun, Bagua Zhang, Xing Yi Quan and Baji are showcased in this film and are the centerpiece of this intricately woven story.
The cinematography in this film is nothing short of breathtaking (of course we expect nothing less of Wong Kar Wai). The settings and locations have been painstakingly put together to mesmerize the human eyes with an immense feast way too rich to be called eye candy. The acting is incredible with great performances from the lead actors Tony Leung (Hero) and Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).
The fight scenes are the type martial arts action fans like myself live for, showcasing the deadly beauty of each style. There is even a good amount of philosophy that is both pertinent and practical for those of us that study martial arts.
Here comes the “but”. BUT at the end of the day, the film as a whole is just average. Even at the end of this two hour and ten minute film you are left feeling like there is something you missed. At times during the film I felt as though the story wasn’t really moving forward and the director simply wanted to distract the audience with intricate set pieces. Narration at various transition points in the film served as a way to disguise the clumsy storytelling. Perhaps the strangest part is that they go through great lengths to show the audience how these different styles of kung fu are related historically as well as in the storyline…but then fails to make a realistic connection for one of the styles (Baji). Now, that last thing may seem small, but because of this one of the most intriguing characters is all but left out of the film.
The Grandmaster is a bit of a letdown in the end. I would encourage fans of kung fu films to watch this film if for no other reason than to enjoy the fight scenes that the principle actors worked so hard to put together. I looked forward to watching this film for a long time and even though I was left wanting, I still believe in the big screen appeal of this film simply because of the cinematography I mentioned earlier. So despite it’s flaws The Grandmaster has some redeeming qualities that will definitely leave you entertained.
– Anthony Robinson