Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Grandmaster: Visually beautiful, but disappointing

Director: Wong Kar-Wai
Running Time: 108 minutes (US) 130 minutes (original cut)

The Grandmaster is the latest effort from Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai. Having directed acclaimed films such as Chungking Express, 2046, and In the Mood for Love, he has a built a reputation as one of the best Asian filmmakers of our generation. Like his previous films, this one is in Cantonese with subtitles.
The Grandmaster stars Tony Leung, who has appeared in six previous Wong Kar-Wai films, as Ip Man. Ip Man was a Chinese martial artist known for Wing Chun style and for training the legendary Bruce Lee. There was a previous film based on his life released in 2008, titled Ip Man.
The film’s strength lies in its visuals. The fight scenes are brilliantly choreographed; I haven’t seen a film with action scenes like this. The only problem is they get somewhat repetitive after a while. The camera often focuses in an extreme close up on a certain aspect of the fight while going into slow motion. This is a very interesting effect at first, but gets somewhat tedious as the film goes along. Also, it seems like fights just happen for no real reason. There's also an overemphasis on onscreen text filling in the blanks of the plot. Once at the beginning would have been okay, but it happens multiple times throughout the film.

Unfortunately, this movie starts great, but gets kind of slow as it hits the second act. The plot gets bogged down in a romantic subplot between Ip Man and Ziyi Zhang’s character. As usual with Wong Kar-Wai, the love is unrequited. Furthermore, many of the secondary characters aren’t entirely fleshed out. Perhaps this is a result of 22 minutes being cut for the American version.
The Grandmaster will likely appeal to Wong Kar-Wai fans, as it is done in his usual style. Those unfamiliar with his work may find it a bit boring, however. Overall, the film is decent, but could have been much better.
                As of August 31st, it currently has a 74 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.6 on IMDB. It’s grossed over $55 million worldwide, with less than a million of that coming from the US.

RATING: 6/10

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