LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- THV 11 Film Critic Jonathan Nettles on The Grandmaster.
Simply stated, The Grandmaster is a brief glimpse into the life of Ip Man, who is credited with training the legendary Bruce Lee. It's a biopic disguised as a King Fu movie. It's a glimpse into how China changed from the late 1920's to the late 1950's. It's an incredible piece of film.
In Pre-World War II China, the country had very traditional views of their Kung Fu masters, who were revered in their provinces and the schools of the north and south were divided as enemies. Ip Man was a man of wealth who was given the challenge of fighting a master from the North, when the Japanese invaded China, travel was basically cut-off and the need for survival outweighed the need for fighting amongst the Kung Fu masters. As many people did, Ip Man eventually moved to Hong Kong to find work and in the '50s when Hong Kong was cut-off from the rest of China, there were several Kung Fu masters from the different school and styles who were fighting in the streets to gain superiority for their styles. It was Ip Man who was able to help unite the different schools.
The Grandmaster has so many amazing aspects to it. The fight choreography was done by Yuen Woo-ping who also choreographed The Matrix trilogy. It's so precise and clean, yet you can keep up with every move, every punch, and every kick. The cinematography is outstanding. The opening scene features a battle between Ip Man and about 20 opponents in the rain. The look of that alone is worth paying to see this movie.
It's another foreign film treasure that The Weinstein Company is distributing in the U.S. and it's presented by Martin Scorsese. Those two things alone say a lot about the film. There have been several different cuts of the film (directors often do that for different markets. director Wong Kar Wai says this version is a much tighter cut of the film.
Admittedly, I don't know much about the Chinese film market or much about Chinese film actors but the cast of The Grandmaster is recognizable from other films I've seen. Tony Leung plays Ip Man and Zhang Ziyi as the secret love of his life Gong Er.