Just being able to sit through this insufferable bore should be considered an achievement in itself because Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster is no less than third-degree torture for its 130 minutes of story actually feels like eternity. As a biopic, it is horrible. As a martial arts actioner, it is laughable. And as a drama, it is absolutely motionless.
Conceived at a time when the entirety of Hong-Kong cinema went batshit crazy & started producing numerous films based on the life of legendary martial artist, Ip Man (whom the world identifies as the man who trained Bruce Lee), The Grandmaster differs in its portrayal of the Wing Chun master’s life but I myself am not sure what exactly it was trying to be.
Co-written & directed by Wong Kar-wai, this is my first stint with his works and it is extremely demoralising to be honest because I’ve heard good things about this filmmaker. Or maybe I just started with the wrong picture because even though the film is forgettable in every way, its visual flair & crisp cinematography nonetheless manage to leave a positive impression.
However, these positive aspects do not supplement the narration in any manner & further distract from its storyline. But these distractions are also the sole reason why I was able to sit through this hollow cinema. The set pieces, costumes, customs & traditions have an authentic feel to it & is aesthetically presented but none of that matters in the end due to its poor storytelling.
Frankly, the story of Ip Man was ingeniously brought to life by Wilson Yip in the Donnie Yen-starring Ip Man. Even though that film took liberties with its subject matter, the end product was still an engaging, entertaining & fitting tribute to the legacy of Ip Man. Add to that, the grounded portrayal of martial arts & character-driven plot made it all the more admirable.
What we have here is something that goes about doing everything to convince people that it is “art” and tries to disguise its insipid tale with spellbinding camerawork. The plot goes on n on without anything happening, is filled with characters uttering bullshit for the majority of its runtime plus its martial arts sequences are way too over-the-top to be worthy of any praise.
On an overall scale, The Grandmaster opens on a rousing note with an exaggerated yet fun action scene but once the dramatic portion takes over, it becomes a real test of patience with no rewards in the end. The film boasts little moments of screen magic but not even for once does its different aspects come together to provide an immersive cinematic experience.
Stagnant when it comes to pacing, lethargic when it comes to storytelling, dull when it comes to characters, stale when it comes to performances & laughable when it comes to action, Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster is a convoluted mess that disappoints big time despite no initial expectations & is without a doubt one of the most boring films I’ve ever seen.