Generally favorable reviews - based on 37 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 30 out of 37
  2. Negative: 0 out of 37
Watch On
  1. Reviewed by: Manohla Dargis
    Aug 22, 2013
    The Grandmaster is, at its most persuasive, about the triumph of style. When Ip Man slyly asks “What’s your style?” it’s clear that Mr. Wong is asking the same question because here, as in his other films, style isn’t reducible to ravishing surfaces; it’s an expression of meaning.
  2. Reviewed by: Bilge Ebiri
    Aug 26, 2013
    In short, I'd be the happiest person in the world if Wong announced there was a four-hour cut of this film somewhere. For now, neither version is perfect, but they’re both so beautiful, so heartbreaking, that the question may be moot. Whatever its flaws, seeing The Grandmaster theatrically, in any version, should be a sacrament for any true film lover — a spiritual duty.
  3. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Aug 22, 2013
    An exercise in pure cinematic style filled with the most ravishing images, The Grandmaster finds director Wong Kar-wai applying his impeccable visual style to the mass-market martial arts genre with potent results.
  4. Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Aug 22, 2013
    The Grandmaster, may well be the definitive illustration of kung fu in all its arcane schools and intricate styles. There's never been anything like it — a seemingly endless flow of spectacular images in a story about Ip Man (Tony Leung), the legendary kung-fu master who trained Bruce Lee.
  5. Reviewed by: Rene Rodriguez
    Aug 29, 2013
    The Grandmaster sets aside traditional story structure in its last 15 minutes and becomes one of the filmmaker’s free-form visual poems, suffused with melancholy and compassion.
  6. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Feb 10, 2013
    Intermittently action-packed and lethargic, the movie dances around formula. By delivering an expressionistic character study with bursts of intensity unlike anything else in his oeuvre and yet stylistically representative of its entirety, Wong practically has it both ways.
  7. Reviewed by: Kevin Harley
    Jan 9, 2015
    Flawed but often flooring, The Grandmaster swoons with grace, feeling and elegance. With Leung and Zhang on killer form, Wong has delivered his best film in a decade.
  8. Reviewed by: Craig Williams
    Dec 2, 2014
    It's a film that prompts an overwhelming emotional response as it weaves its dark magic.
  9. Reviewed by: Kim Newman
    Dec 1, 2014
    It may not be much more than six of the most imaginatively staged and filmed fight scenes in the cinema, but that’s almost certainly enough to recommend it.
  10. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Aug 22, 2013
    It’s certainly not Wong’s greatest work; it may be a masterpiece that evades the mass audience or a beautiful failure with moments of greatness. All I know is that I got lost in it, and that I would still have loved it if it were twice as long with half the action.
  11. Reviewed by: Stephanie Zacharek
    Aug 19, 2013
    This is a story told in shards; Wong is so obsessed with visual details – faces refracted as if in a broken mirror, or fragile arcs of blood being traced out on the pavement by the feet of two feuding kung fu masters – that the story he’s trying to tell is partly obscured by them.
  12. Reviewed by: Clarence Tsui
    Feb 10, 2013
    True to Wong’s style, The Grandmaster is infused with melancholy and a near-existentialist resignation to the uncertainties of fate.
  13. Reviewed by: Maggie Lee
    Feb 10, 2013
    Venturing into fresh creative terrain without relinquishing his familiar themes and stylistic flourishes, Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar Wai exceeds expectations with The Grandmaster, fashioning a 1930s action saga into a refined piece of commercial filmmaking.
  14. Reviewed by: Mark Jenkins
    Aug 31, 2013
    The director took great efforts to be true to Chinese martial arts, but he did so without sacrificing his own distinctive vision.
  15. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Aug 30, 2013
    What's on screen in The Grandmaster is off-puttingly disjointed, but it's also dazzling in its startling action and ravishing romance.
  16. Reviewed by: Peter Keough
    Aug 29, 2013
    Who knows what they’re fighting about, but given the ecstatic ballet of fists and water, tossed bodies and smashed decor, centered by Leung’s majestic impassivity, it doesn’t really matter.
  17. Reviewed by: Bill Stamets
    Aug 29, 2013
    The elegant style of the fighting sequences does more than display camera and kung fu technique — this style also shows fighters living with honor.
  18. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Aug 29, 2013
    Whereas many kung-fu movies are a feast that leaves us weary with sensations, the tastefully bittersweet “Grandmaster” puts us in the mood for more.
  19. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Aug 23, 2013
    Tony Leung plays Ip Man, the real-life kung fu innovator who most famously trained Bruce Lee. His life takes in the upheavals in China from the 1930s through the ’50s, including the Japanese occupation.
  20. Reviewed by: Steven Boone
    Aug 23, 2013
    The Grandmaster is a drunken love letter to experience, which helps us survive, and wisdom, which helps us face aging, loss and, ultimately, the abyss. Wong, who was called the coolest director in the world when he was much younger, is now 57. This film is about a man like him, who has proven himself in the world and enters mid-life exuding a new, sage kind of cool.
  21. Reviewed by: V.A. Musetto
    Aug 22, 2013
    Wong extracts magnetic performances from his two stars, and Philippe Le Sourd delivers gorgeous cinematography.
  22. Reviewed by: Scott Bowles
    Aug 22, 2013
    An historical opus that is equal parts ballet and biography, though the second component pales in comparison with the first.
  23. Reviewed by: David Denby
    Sep 6, 2013
    A superb martial discipline has ended in a commercial movie genre--not the worst fate in the world, but the comic irony of it is of little interest to a director bent on glorification. [9 Sept. 2013, p.90]
  24. Reviewed by: Kimberley Jones
    Aug 28, 2013
    The U.S. cut, which Wong endorses, runs a slim 108 minutes, and has by all accounts been reshaped for American audiences, who, by and large, don’t have the same foreknowledge of Ip Man, or martial arts, as Asian audiences do.
  25. Reviewed by: A.A. Dowd
    Aug 21, 2013
    At the end of the day, the pesky imperative to convey information is still a driving force; more than anything Wong has ever made, the movie chokes on exposition, its more poetic concerns stifled by its surfeit of plot.
  26. Reviewed by: Jessica Kiang
    Feb 10, 2013
    All of Wong's undeniable visual flair can't conceal the haphazard nature of the story.
  27. Reviewed by: Liam Lacey
    Aug 22, 2013
    There are sequences in Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai’s new film, The Grandmaster, that are as gorgeous as anything you’ll see on a screen this year, or perhaps this decade.
  28. Reviewed by: Drew Grant
    Aug 20, 2013
    The Grandmaster offers welcome relief from a moviegoing summer spent in sensory overload.
  29. 63
    A regal, majestic and downright arty take on this teacher, champion and philosopher whose life spanned much of the twentieth century.
  30. Reviewed by: Chuck Bowen
    Aug 12, 2013
    The film, more likely to invite comparisons to the writings of Marcel Proust than the previous Ip Man films, is a gorgeous folly that never entirely emerges from its creator's head.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 82 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 16 out of 27
  2. Negative: 7 out of 27
  1. Aug 23, 2013
    Unlike martial arts film in the wuxia style, such as "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," that are typically set in a fantasy pre-modern era,Unlike martial arts film in the wuxia style, such as "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," that are typically set in a fantasy pre-modern era, "The Grandmaster" is set against the specific backdrop of the political upheaval in China from the 1930s to the 1950s, including the Japanese invasion and civil war. And though Wong said he does not know what his next film will be, he feels satisfied the years of work have come to fruition with "The Grandmaster." "I know I'm not going to make many kung fu films," Wong said. "This may be the only kung fu film I make, I don't know. I want to put everything I know about kung fu films into this film." Wong Kar Wai is known as an international master of moody romance, making films filled with a yearning melancholy. His "In the Mood for Love" was the only film from this century to make the Top 25 of a recent Sight & Sound poll of the greatest films of all time. So news that he was making a kung fu film tracing the life of Ip Man, who would famously go on to train Bruce Lee, caught many of his fans off-guard. Playing now in Los Angeles, the long-awaited film has already been the biggest commercial hit of Wong's career in China, even with its unlikely combination of a rousing martial arts story and a moving tale of romantic longing. Full Review »
  2. Oct 4, 2013
    The movie was disjointed and confusing. To top it off there were way too many slow scenes with bittersweet music that put me to sleep... TheThe movie was disjointed and confusing. To top it off there were way too many slow scenes with bittersweet music that put me to sleep... The first half of the movie is decent, but then it becomes a big yawn fest. Full Review »
  3. Sep 28, 2013
    Rains drops shine like diamonds. A choreographed battle becomes a dance of graceful, powerful movement. The violence becomes beautiful. WithRains drops shine like diamonds. A choreographed battle becomes a dance of graceful, powerful movement. The violence becomes beautiful. With this incredible fight scene director Kar Wai Wong opens The Grandmaster.

    Then Wong replicates the same techniques over and over again, ad nauseam, expecting fancy camera angles and beautiful set designs to carry an entire 90-minute feature. The result, a film where absolutely nothing happens.

    Phillipe le Sourd’s cinematography here resembles that of Christopher Doyle’s in Hero (2002). That is to say, it’s amazing, but just in case we didn’t recognize its amazingness in the first scene, the second scene, or even the tenth, scene Director Wong insists we better recognize. Wong pummels the viewer with le Sourd’s blazing techniques. Identical shot after identical shot render le Sourd’s imagery utterly meaningless.

    This film stars the great of Zizi Zhang of Crouching Tiger (2000) and Hero fame. Here she plays a supporting character, and, oh yeah, is totally wasted as an actress. The disorganized mess of direction spends more time showing slow motion side angles of her pretty face than probably any other single device in the film. Zhang’s combat is graceful as always, but this gets boring fast as there is no discernable purpose to all her fighting.

    The main character Ip Man flees whatever Chinese town he’s from as the crisis of a Japanese invasion occurs, but we don’t even care. Eventually Zhang’s character and Ip Man magically meet up in Hong Kong, but by this point, thanks to the miasmic mess that has spewed fourth since the beginning of the film, the only think we do care about as viewers is the amount of time left until the credits roll.
    Full Review »