The Grandmaster (DVD)

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The Grandmaster (DVD)

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Review of "The Grandmaster (DVD)"

published 23/08/2017 | thedevilinme
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"Kung Fu Checkmate?"

The Grandmaster (DVD)

The Grandmaster (DVD)

Star – Director Kar –Wai Wong
Genre – World Cinema – Martial Arts
Run Time – 130 minutes
Certificate – PG 13
Country – Hong Kong
Oscars – 2 nominations
Awards – 53 Wins & 51 Nominations
Amazon – £3.82 DVD £10.99 Blue Ray
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The Grandmaster was a much anticipated martial arts movie bout the life of the IP man, a revered martial arts expert who eventfully trained Bruce Lee. The project was announced almost 10 years before its final release, due to director Kar-Wai Wong's endless perfectionism. Sadly several other motion pictures about the Ip Man came together after this announcement and the best and most notable being Ip Man (2008) and Ip Man 2 (2010). Kar-Wai Wong is famously pedantic and one big reason for the relentless development time here was that the director spent a year or more in the editing suite before he was satisfied. With Martin Scorcese also on board at that point someone was trying to impress.

Bruce Lee trained in the martial art of ‘Wing Chun’ and later developed his own advanced martial arts philosophy, Jeet Kune Do ("The Way of the Intercepting Fist.") Wing Chun is a cool martial art that uses short-range punches and blocks and low kicks for close contact, what Conner McGregor may need to beat Floyd Mayweather when he is made to look like a mug next Saturday morning.


Tony Chiu-Wai Leung ... Ip Man (as Tony Leung)
Cung Le ... Iron Shoes
Qingxiang Wang ... Master Gong Yutian
Elvis Tsui ... Mr. Hung
Hye-kyo Song ... Zhang Yongcheng
Kar-Yung Lau ... Master Yong
Chau Yee Tsang ... Shorty
Hoi-Pang Lo ... Uncle Deng
Shun Lau ... Master Rui
Xiaofei Zhou ... Sister San
Mancheng Wang ... Master Ba
Ting Yip Ng ... Brother Sau
Man Keung Cho ... Cho Man
Tony Ling ... Foshan Martial Artist
Tielong Shang ... Jiang

Its 1930s Foshan, China as war edges closer to the country from the Japanese aggressors. Ip mans early life is seen through flashback from his new life in Hong Kong to his past. The movie begins with Ip Man reflecting on martial arts, from his early training at the age of seven to his introduction into serious martial arts by his master Chan Wah-shun (Ji Lang), and then IP mans marriage to his beautiful wife Cheung Wing-sing (Bi Zing), and then cuts to a scene of a fight in the rain between Ip and a dozen Kung Fu bad guys. Ip Man wins the fight comfortably, the supreme master in these parts, it seems.

Ip Man's peaceful existence is threatened by the arrival of Gong Yutian (Qingxiang Wang), the Wudang Boxing martial arts grandmaster from northern China, who announces that he will retire and has appointed Ma San (Tielong Shang) as his heir in the North, so total control over northern China’s martial arts. He then decrees that the South should have its own heir. Fights end furry erupt as the sitting masters attempt to challenge Gong, but they are all barred by Ma San. The Southern masters can’t decide on a representative.

Gong Yutian's diminutive daughter Gong Er (Xiaofei Zhou) tries to convince her father not to continue the fight, as she feels they are all unworthy. Meanwhile, the top Southern masters decide on Ip Man to represent them. This will involve Ip being tested by three Southern masters before he challenges Gong. Bu the "fight" between Ip and Gong turns out to be an exchange of philosophical ideas. Gong declares Ip the winner and returns to northern China.

Gong Er needs to regain her family's honour by challenging Ip Man, and they agree. "Kung Fu is about precision", so whoever breaks anything during the fight, apart from each other, is the victor. Let the porcelain fly!


I was expecting great things from this with all the respectable broadsheet DVD recommendations on the dust cover and top cast and crew involved suggesting just that. I was hoping for an action packed Kung Fu epic but instead we have an over-stylised plodding two hours from a director obsessed with perfect pictures but not a lot else. The story is dull and convoluted but God forbid if one of the slow motion raindrops are out of sync. It really was quite confusing to be honest and I’m still none the wiser what was going on. The dialogue is somewhat basic, I guess to appeal a wider South East Asian audience, and although great to look at it’s not about those familiar epic scenes with a lot of it shot at night.

It’s certainly the most talky martial arts film I have seen with lots of Chinese proverbs and sayings and posturing. Any reference to Bruce Lee is left to the last few scenes in the film so don’t get it for that. The fight scenes are choreographed to an inch of their lives and the film taking it self way to seriously with little humor or knockabout fun. In fact it sees itself as a serious movie with lots of ‘acting’ and pathos and that complicated storyline. Subtitles don’t really help as they are telling the story to a vast Chinese audience that probably already knows it and not that interested in your and me. You have to know some of the Ip man legend to stay with this. I do quite like the idea that China was once ruled by Kung Fu though.

Soon the whole it’s not what you hoped it to be and if you want what you thought it is then steer well clear. If you like the look and feel of a films cinematography then this will pleas you in many ways where as you want a fist to the groin and then a round nose kick to the left ear then this is probably not for you. I wanted the later and certainly Bruce Lee. I got neither. This is flabby and too pretty overly long Kung Fu tail that’s not for a western audience.

RATINGS – 6.5/10.0 (26,324votes) – 78% critic’s approval – 73% critic’s approval


Special Features



Independent –‘The Grandmaster is an anomaly -- a mournful and delicate kung-fu movie with hardly a trace of machismo about it’.

Times UK -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’.

Guardian –‘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.’

Empire Magazine –‘It may not be much more than six of the most imaginatively staged and filmed fight scenes in the cinema, but that's almost certainly enough to recommend it’.

Washington Post –‘Wong Kar Wai's latest film is by turns elegant and frustrating, beautiful and hard to track, sumptuous and spartan’.

Bangkok Post –‘Wong's touch remains deft, his whims trustworthy, and his indulgence is still carried over from the screen and becomes our own’.

The Irish Times –‘Eventually, the story becomes as much an atmospheric lament about what has been lost, as it is a kinetic celebration of how kung fu adapted to the changing times’.

Fan the Fire –‘The narrative structure is a little shaky at times, and it perhaps inhabits too many genres to be fully successful in any of them, but my goodness it's compelling’


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Comments on this review

  • mousy86 published 21/09/2017
    great review x
  • euphie published 28/08/2017
    e :o)
  • beautybuff published 28/08/2017
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Product Information : The Grandmaster (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

Product Details

Country Of Origin: Hong Kong

Genre: Action & Adventure

Actor(s): Tony Chiu Wai Leung, Cung Le, Qingxiang Wang, Elvis Tsui, Hye-Kyo Song

Director(s): Kar Wai Wong

Sub Genre: General

DVD Region: DVD

EAN: 5055002559648

Video Category: World Cinema Feature Film


Listed on Ciao since: 14/08/2017