By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Beautiful martial arts, some violence, uneven storyline.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Positive MessagesThough the movie features quite a few violent fights, it also shows how the main character uses his brain in a fight -- and sometimes doesn't fight at all. He also perseveres through some tough times and becomes a teacher.
Positive Role ModelsTeens will admire Ip Man's supreme martial arts skills and should likewise understand the kind of work, training, and dedication it takes to reach that level. It's also apparent that he's not a particularly violent person; he favors precision and grace over force. He also uses his head in a fight and sometimes doesn't fight at all. There's also a strong female martial arts fighter, though her story doesn't end well.
Violence & ScarinessSeveral martial arts fights; though the emphasis is primarily on their beauty and artistry, there's some violence involved. Some victims suffer from broken bones; viewers can hear them crunch and see them on impact. There's also some spraying blood. One combatant uses blades in a fight, and another character spits up blood after a fight.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & NudityA long sequence takes place in a brothel, though nothing graphic is shown. The women are fully clothed in fancy dress, and there's no suggestion of sex, sexual innuendo, or sexual activity. The main character is married, and while separated from his wife during the war, he entertains feelings for another woman. But he never acts on them.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
LanguageThe words "f---er" and "ass" appear once each in English subtitles.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & SmokingA secondary character becomes addicted to opium. Many characters, including the hero, are shown smoking cigarettes throughout the movie.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Grandmaster is a martial arts biopic about Ip Man, the legendary Wing Chun master who trained Bruce Lee. Director Wong Kar Wai is one of the world's most respected filmmakers, but this is one of his less acclaimed movies. Expect plenty of martial arts fighting, and though the film's focus is primarily on artistry and beauty, there's still some bone-crunching and spraying blood. "F--k" and "ass" each appear once in the English subtitles; sexuality isn't an issue, though scenes take place at a brothel (they're not graphic). One character becomes addicted to opium, and many characters, including the hero, smoke cigarettes. The same subject was covered -- quite differently -- in 2008's less artsy but more enjoyable Ip Man.
To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Where to Watch
There aren't any parent reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.
What's the Story?
In the 1930s in Foshan, in the southern part of China, there are many martial arts schools. But the best one by far is Ip Man's school of Wing Chun. Challenged by northern master Gong Yutian, Ip Man (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) responds with a philosophical approach, and he's named the winner. But Gong's daughter, Er (Zhang Ziyi), wishes to reclaim her family's good name and challenges Ip to a fight in which the loser is the first to break the furniture. Ip loses, but the two stay in touch. Later, when the Sino-Japanese War begins, Ip and his family fall into extreme poverty. Ip moves to Hong Kong hoping to become a teacher and meets up with Er there. They seem to have a romantic connection, but they can't act on it.
Is It Any Good?
This review pertains to the U.S. cut, which is about 22 minutes shorter than the international cut and reportedly focuses more on action, sacrificing character content in the bargain. The result is an uneven, somewhat chilly movie, albeit one with some absolutely beautiful fight sequences. The film begins with an almost totally unrelated scene in which Ip Man defeats 20 opponents in the rain at night, and it's breathtaking.
Each of the other fight scenes, especially the one between Ip Man and Gong Er, are highly satisfying. And the powerful, unfulfilled romantic tension between the two characters in the movie's second half is quite lovely, recalling some of director Wong Kar Wai's best work, specifically In the Mood for Love. But perhaps due to the cuts in the story -- or perhaps because of Wong's unique, poetic rhythms -- much of the narrative flow seems flat or even stuck. But the good does outweigh the bad. The related Ip Man (2008) is more fun, if less artistic.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about The Grandmaster's violence. Did the fighting strike you as artistic, violent, or somewhere in between?
What does the movie teach viewers about martial arts other than fighting?
Does the fact that the main character smokes cigarettes make him less appealing?
- In theaters: August 23, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: November 26, 2013
- Cast: Chang Chen, Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi
- Director: Wong Kar Wai
- Studio: Weinstein Co.
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence, some smoking, brief drug use and language
- Last updated: April 28, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Where to Watch
Our Editors Recommend
Martial Arts Movies for Kids
Best Action Movies for Kids
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate