By Wilson Morales
Ever since ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ came out years and was nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture, martial arts films have risen to another level. For those who are fans of the genre, and grew up watching a bunch of subtitled or poorly dubbed copies of Shaw Brothers martial arts film, ‘Dragon’ changed the game like ‘Avatar’ did for 3D. Not only did subsequent films stepped up their quality with stronger visual effects and choreography, but the storylines were more compelling and engaging.
Such is the case with Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai’s latest film, ‘The Grandmaster,’ an emotional moving, thrilling and provocative drama that’s highly entertaining but at times loses itself with its lack of storytelling.
Starring his ‘In The Mood For Love’ star Tony Leung along with ‘Hidden Dragon’s Zhang Ziyi, the story centers on the life of Wing Chun master Ip Man (Leung), who famously was the teacher of the legendary Bruce Lee. Set in the 1930s and opening up with a battle sequence filmed with dimmed outside lights and rain, we see IP Man fighting against those who wish to test his martial arts. It happens that many students of kung fu are fighting each other to see who will be one chosen as the grandmaster of the South when an heir to the North has already been chosen.
IP seems to be the favorite, but he’s equally challenged by the daughter (Ziyi) of a grandmaster. Having learned her father’s “64 Hands” kung fu, Gong Er proves to be a worthy opponent, which leads to an unrequited romance due to the fact that IP Man is a loyal and honest family man.
Soon, the film moves quite poetically as we see IP Man’s life as a teacher, the destruction of China, his loss of his family and his constant run-ins with Gong Er, all while he continues to fight and earn the respect of many.
Outside the beautiful cinematography and amazing fight scenes, the storyline leaves one with unanswered questions. Given that the domestic film had been trimmed to 108 min from its original 130 minutes could be why the film leaves you bored and wanting more. Over the last few years, there have more stories and films on IP Man, including one starring Donnie Yen, and Anthony Wong’s upcoming ‘IP Man: The Final Fight,’ but with Kar-Wai, one expects something better than just visuals and fight scenes. Leung and Ziyi are great in the film, as expected, but we want a story with substance that we can remember.