Beautiful martial arts, some violence, uneven storyline.
What parents need to know
Positive role models
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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.
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.
Families can talk about...
|Theatrical release date:||August 23, 2013|
|DVD/Streaming release date:||November 26, 2013|
|Cast:||Chang Chen, Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi|
|Director:||Wong Kar Wai|
|Topics:||Sports and martial arts|
|Run time:||108 minutes|
|MPAA explanation:||violence, some smoking, brief drug use and language|
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