The Grandmaster Review
Does the name Ip Man ring a bell?
If your a kung-fu movie buff or just in love with kung-fu history in general, you should know who Ip Man is. Ip Man was a Chinese martial artist who used his unique techniques to honor his people and inspire them. He taught martial arts for many years, and his most famous student was Bruce Lee. Yes, THE Bruce Lee, so Ip Man is a pretty big deal. Already, there have been many movies made about him. I think the most popular one was the Donnie Yen movie(s) which came out in 2005 and 2008.
After already several films, yet another film about Ip Man was released in 2013, called "The Grandmaster." Instead of Donnie Yen portraying the legendary figure, we have Tony Leung Chiu Wai as Ip Man. The other most recognizable actor in this film is Zhang Ziyi, whom you will remember from "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Rush Hour 2." "The Grandmaster" chronicles the life and times of Master Ip. Whereas the Donnie Yen films of the 2000's focused on specific points in the master's life, "The Grandmaster" covers all of the major points of Ip Man's life, spanning from the Chinese Republican era, the final Chinese dynasty collapse and Japan's invasion. How Ip Man fit into all of these major events is essentially what this movie is about.
"The Grandmaster" is tremendous fun, something I think all kung-fu fans should see at least once. While the fight scenes in Yen's "Ip Man" were realistic and brutal, "The Grandmaster" fight scenes are more stylish, but just as brutal. Tony Leung Chiu Wai really bring the essence of Ip Man alive, and does a very good job with the character. The whole time I watched this film, I didn't think of Donnie Yen's portrayal, and I think that is a good thing. Zhang Ziyi plays Gong Er, the daughter of an owner of a rival martial arts school who may have had a thing for Master Ip. Their slight romance is well-balanced and never comes off shoehorned into the movie. "The Grandmaster" in general covers a lot of bases, and it never once feels off-balance. The entire movie is given the care needed in order to be coherent.
There is only one big thing that took me out of the movie several times. There is a lot of information given to the audience through title cards. Instead of showing the audience the action in many parts of the movie, we are told the action. That definitely bothered me a bit, especially with an action movie like "The Grandmaster." We should be seeing everything and be told very little. The script by Wong Kar-wai is written beautifully, and this could have really been something, had we not stopped to read what was happening in several parts of the movie. Sometimes something as small as lots of title cards can weigh a movie down, but I couldn't help but be puzzled by the massive amount of information we had to read.
All in all, "The Grandmaster" is worth a look. Kung-fu buffs will love the action, women will like the tender love story, and I think everyone else will enjoy an interesting story at the heart of all the commotion. The actors bring the story to life. The direction and writing by Wong Kar-wai is very good. I only wish we saw more, instead of reading a paragraph behind a black screen.
FINAL GRADE: B