Beautifully Filmed and Choreographed

Written and directed by Kar Wai Wong, The Grandmaster is without doubt, one of the finest looking martial arts films I’ve ever seen, with some magnificent camera work by French cinematographer Phillipe Le Sourd, we’re treated to some excellent choreography by the man behind some of the best fight scenes ever put to film, Woo-ping Yuen. Then we have some solid acting by the hard-working Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Internal Affairs, Red Cliff) and the lovely Ziyi Zhang (Memoirs of a Geisha, Horsemen). Wong is known for his heavy use of symbolism and slow-mo, always a visually interesting, stylish director, who has built up quite a fan base, both home and abroad, and with the long-awaited, much-anticipated The Grandmaster finally coming to the US, I’m sure he’ll be even more sought after by Western audiences. His films, like My Blueberry Nights (Jude Law, Natalie Portman) aren’t always met well by critics, thanks to his oft heavy symbolism and editorial decisions, but the people who matter, the public, enjoy his work, as do I.

The Grandmaster
Kar Wai Wong
Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Ziyi Zhang, Chen Chang
Release Date
23 August, 2013
Influx Grade: B

Where this film will interest martial arts fans more than others, is having the great Woo-ping Yuen choreograph the amazing looking fight sequences, with Yuen previously working on Kill Bill 2 and Man of Tai Chi, Keanu Reeves directorial debut, which is also interesting, because a lot of the fights in The Grandmaster, particularly the opening scene where there is a melee in heavy rain, very alike the battle by Keanu Reeves’ character Neo, who fights Agent Smith in the last of The Matrix trilogy. Apparently the actors all had to actually learn how to really fight, at Yuen’s insistence, but the payoff certainly is worth it, because it came together well. The lead actor playing Ip Man broke his arm twice while shooting this movie, so that should indicate just how much went into this film.

The film was originally 4 hours long, but has since been cut to the more backside-friendly running time of 2 hours 10, but this could have been snipped a tad more, to take up some of the slack from the slow middle act. It also isn’t the most fluid story telling I’ve seen, but this is very much a Kar Wai Wong film, so must be expected by the auteur, as he deems imagery more important. To me, he’s a sort of Asian version of the Wachowski’s, crossed with Zack Snyder, which is a very good thing in my opinion. Very good indeed.

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