Review: Growing up in an Asian household, kung-fu movies were constantly on the TV. I would describe The Grandmaster as a modern take on the old-school kung-fu movies that my grandpa watches, but with way better choreography that seems physically impossible, effortless, and smooth like dancing. It’s really refreshing to see an action flick that doesn’t use guns as the primary form of weapons, as the film takes place during a civil war between North and South China, along with a rivalry between kung-fu masters as the new Grandmaster is chosen, named Ip Man (Tony Leung), who was Bruce Lee’s martial arts mentor. You would think hands and feet won’t do much harm in comparison, but each hit or kick packs a punch with similar effects to a gunshot. With the slow-motion effect during the fight scenes, audiences can almost feel the pain of the hit or kick, which is enhanced by the loud thuds that leave you trembling as the vibrations from the surround-sound speakers come at you like at a rock concert. While watching this movie, I felt like I was on a rollercoaster the entire time because everyone seemed like they were moving at the speed of a snail, and then all of a sudden, a match would break out at lightning speed. There isn’t much dialogue throughout the film, but you can follow along with the story with the subtitles provided, since this film is entirely in Chinese!! It’s kind of annoying because you’re constantly distracted by the words and that’s the only way to understand the movie if you don’t know Mandarin. Another thing I didn’t like was the sexist mindset that the film had, but I guess it’s accurate for the time period and culture. However, the gender boundaries were challenged by Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi), the daughter of the previous Grandmaster, who can kick ass all on her own.
I will give The Grandmaster one thumb up for the amazing action sequences and cinematic effects that deserves an Oscar nomination, but I don’t think the movie will receive great numbers in the box office. Two tips for movie-goers: Kids might not appreciate this film because of the style and subtitles (the kid sitting next to me was bored out of his mind), and don’t drink a lot of water because this film will make you want to pee!