The Grandmaster

6.61 h 48 min2013PG-13
From director Wong Kar Wai and starring Tony Leung and Ziyi Yang, The Grandmaster is an epic action film inspired by the life of Ip Man, the legendary kung fu master who trained Bruce Lee.
Wong Kar-Wai
Hye-kyo SongCung LeChen Chang
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
Tony LeungZiyi ZhangJin Zhang
Ye-cheng ChanMegan EllisonGuoqing GuSanping HanHelen LiKuo Hsing LiSee-Yuen Ng
PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
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4.6 out of 5 stars

1829 global ratings

  1. 76% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 12% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 7% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 2% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 3% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Charles NordlanderReviewed in the United States on February 19, 2014
5.0 out of 5 stars
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I've seen the U.S. version of this film about a half dozen times in theaters. Needless to say, I'm a huge fan. But I've been wondering if, as some have suggested, it's a "dumbed down" edit for American audiences compared to the longer Hong Kong release. So when this Blu-ray's launch date was delayed, I decided to buy the HK version and I was surprised by the differences in ways I did not expect at all.

Let me start with the bad news first: if you're a fan of the film, you really need to own both versions. Both have important strengths, and neither one is a wholly satisfying substitute for the other. BUT… if you forced me to pick just one, I'd have to say the U.S. release would be it, and that's not the conclusion I expected to reach. Here are the pros and cons of each:


1) It fully fleshes out a few characters who have been edited down to cardboard cutouts in the American release. In particular, you'll be astonished at how much more there is to the stories of The Razor, Madame Ip and Ding Lianshan (the guy who only shows up in the cigarette lighting scene with Ip in the U.S. version.)

2) There is just a little more background information to many things throughout the film, which makes for a more complete story.


1) It eliminates the amazing scenes of Gong Er, both as a child and an adult, practicing martial arts in the snow!!! These are some of my favorite scenes in the whole movie, and I was shocked to find them gone in the longer version.

2) It doesn't mention that Ip Man trained Bruce Lee! Again, I was shocked, since this is such a key revelation in the U.S. release, and it brings Ip's story full circle. Maybe the assumption was that Asian audiences would just know this.

3) The HK version just doesn't feel as taut and powerful as the U.S. release. Yes, this is a very subjective comment, but I thought the longer lengths of just about everything in the film left the pacing feeling sluggish and "off" by comparison.

HK DIFFERENCES (not pro or con, just different from U.S.)

1) The U.S. release focuses on Gong Er's later opium addiction, and is clear that she died from it. The HK version mentions but doesn't focus on the addiction, and is vague about whether she died from it… it's presented as just one possibility rather than a certainty. I'm not sure which version is the more accurate.

2) Gong Er is more focused on vengeance in the HK version.

3) In the key early scene where Ip Man breaks the cake in the hand of the Northern Grandmaster, Ip says something very different after breaking it than he does in the U.S. version.


1) Ultimately, while you lose what I've mentioned above in this edited version, the editing makes for a tighter, better paced and more powerful film. And this is why I'd pick this release if I could only choose one.

2) There's a difference in the scoring of the U.S. version (though not a new score)--probably driven by the differences in editing--and it also contributes to the U.S. release being more powerful.

3) It contains the unmissable scenes of Gong Er practicing in the snow.

4) It contains the important info about Bruce Lee.


1) Poor development of a few important characters (see above)

2) Less background info throughout (but the story is still completely understandable)

Well, there you have it! Thanks for taking the time to read my review, and I hope you find in helpful in making a buying decision!
302 people found this helpful
joel wingReviewed in the United States on February 12, 2021
4.0 out of 5 stars
Great mix of Wong’s stylistic film making with classic Chinese fighting choreography
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There was a sudden flurry of movies about Ip Man who was made famous by his student Bruce Lee. This one was made by Wong Kar-wai and featured Tony Leung in the lead. Wong was known for making fantastic romance art films but this was part of his turn towards making commercial releases.

You could tell that from the opening which is a giant martial arts battle ending with Ip in a one on one fight full of slow motion close-ups, Hong Kong style wire work and it’s in the rain for good measure.

The story is a biopic about Ip’s long career starting in Fushan, covers World War II and then his move to Hong Kong. The main focus is upon Ip facing off against different schools of Kugn Fu which means lots of fights. The exception is the World War II section which is very melancholy because of the Japanese invasion and the losses he suffered. Wong still made some beautiful shots and even included a little romance his favorite topic plus sadness another emotion that often comes up in his movies.

Oddly enough there’s a side story as well about Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi) whose father was the Grandmaster of northern and southern style who wanted her family’s legacy back. That of course meant more action scenes.

The Grandmaster is a great mix of Wong’s stylistic film making with classic Chinese fighting choreography.
7 people found this helpful
Matthew D'SouzaReviewed in the United States on September 22, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Wong Kar-wai Outdoes the Donnie Yen Ip Man Film!
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A breathtaking drama on the virtue of keeping your word.

Director Wong Kar-wai’s biopic on Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man entitled The Grandmaster (2013) is a stunning display of human dignity and grace. Kar-wai’s direction is stirring and emotional throughout Ip Man’s incredible life. The drama about martial arts techniques, codes, study, and legacy is as riveting as the thrilling action sequences. Kar-wai has mastered the art of subtle storytelling by allowing you to imagine Ip Man’s thoughts and feelings as we witness his turbulent life story. The Grandmaster is martial arts drama and informative biopic alike, bringing Ip Man’s existence, importance, and legacy to life with an earnest and honest retrospective.

Wong Kar-wai engages you throughout Ip Man’s early salad days as a wealthy and respected martial arts master, into his dark days during WWII during Japan’s occupation of China, finally compelling you with his transition into a teacher of martial arts moves and mindset. Kar-wai shoves you into this world with brutal fight after fight, then letting you sit with the impact and consequences of character’s early actions. Kar-wai’s writing for The Grandmaster is all about the choices we make in life and that we should live our lives to the fullest while we still breathe.

Philippe Le Sourd’s cinematography features slow motion combat and impactful blows that look immensely painful. Ip Man’s life was unfortunately full of violence and tragedy, thus The Grandmaster reflects his life story with beautiful moments of striking imagery and shocking shots of brutal violence. The first shot of Winter in China with the black silhouette of a man is one of Le Sourd’s best shots, but the entirety of the duel at the train station is riveting because of Le Sourd’s style. The smoke rising and flakes of snow fall onto fur coats, while fists fly in the air seeking revenge or solace is as wondrous as camera work gets.

Shigeru Umebayashi and Nathaniel Méchaly’s score is classical Chinese music with a contemporary feel. It keeps the pace moving and feels like ambient color alongside William Chang’s gorgeous costumes and lavish production design. Chang’s choice of the black fuzzy coats for Ziyi Zhang alone should have won him an Oscar. Chang’s editing is a flourish of hazy dreamlike memories thinking back on Ip Man’s past as well as his life exactly in order by year for total coherency.

Tony Leung gives Ip Man a fluid sweeping motion and a tender position as a respectful listener. Leung rivals the amazing performance from Donnie Yen in his Ip Man biopic. I think Leung plays it more nuanced as a man desperately trying to survive and hone his skills, while finding wisdom through friendship and martial arts. Leung allows his Ip Man to just listen attentively and watch closely for a genuine portrayal of astonishing humanity.

Ziyi Zhang is the darling of The Grandmaster as the fierce and devastating Gong Er. Her portrayal features compelling drama as a woman dissatisfied with her life, a righteous indignation over her slain father, a fury as she avenges her father, an Opium addiction after injuries sustained, an unrequited love for Ip Man, and a forlorn dejection for her misspent life. Zhang pulls off a particularly complex role with ease. Her combat in the brothel against Ip Man as well as her train station fight as the highlight combat sequences within The Grandmaster. Her open confession to Ip Man in the teahouse during the climax is riveting and heartbreaking. Ziyi Zhang again delivers one of drama and cinema’s finest performances ever.

Overall, Wong Kar-wai finds realism and tenderness from larger than life characters in his subtle biopic on Ip Man. The Grandmaster is well worth watching for a more detailed, powerful, mature, and accurate depiction of Ip Man’s compelling life story than the Donnie Yen action movie Ip Man. Wong Kar-wai pays a poignant tribute to a martial arts icon, Wing Chun grandmaster, and decent human being Ip Man.
5 people found this helpful
lawrence chanReviewed in the United States on February 22, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
a visually stunning and sensitive masterpiece of cinematic artistry.
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the cinematography and choreography are exquisite.
this is one of the rare and select Chinese Martial arts films that transcend being a mere vehicle for the superficial gratification of elaborately staged combats.
This fim is cinematic poetry; and as Ip Man observes, the story of the lives of the two protagonists in this film is likened to an opera; that being said, with an outstanding corps de ballet in the finest traditions of theatrical artistry.

Overall, the film is a masterpiece of visual and spiritually evocative parlance, with select scenes that rival the western biographical film about the painter Vermeer; "Girl With A Pearl Earring" or certain Peter Greenaway films.

This, however, is no fusion of Eastern and Western traditions, nor does it's Asian roots offer challenge to it's Western counterparts; to understand this is a prerequisite to the comprehension and appreciation of what is being presented to the viewer .

The genius of "The Grandmaster" shines brightly with films such as "Hero" and Tan Dun's Met Opera production of, "The First Emperor" with Placido Domingo.
14 people found this helpful
L. LorReviewed in the United States on December 30, 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
About as close to a wing chin bugua love scene you will ever see.
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About as close to a wing chin bugua love scene you will ever see between Gong Er and Ip - outstanding.
The father daughter bagua in the snow was perfect to symbolize and cement the future- past dynamic that runs throughout the film.
And perhaps the best scene is passing on the Grandmaster baton in the 'cookie' scene bringing Taoist thought to life when the past-future tension is think in the air. We see a sort of push-pull where of past and future meet dancing/spar a little and separate.

Ip: The world is a big place, why limit it to north and south? It holds you back. Break from what you know and know more

Grandmaster: I never thought I'd see the limits of my own vision. Today I've made you famous...I hope you will be like me. Pass the torch. Never give up the faith. Keep the light burning

Ip did and broke from tradition teaching many to include non-Asian students. Martial arts belongs to all who are willing to learn.
After the film - back to the dojo and train. Enjoy
14 people found this helpful
AKReviewed in the United States on March 9, 2021
4.0 out of 5 stars
Ipman, sliced a different way!
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The Grandmaster—is a well done movie with, of course, Tony Leung as Ipman and choreography done by Yuen Woo-ping, whose choreographed countless Chinese films like The Iron Monkey, Drunken Master, and Jet Li’s Fist of Legend. The Grandmaster is sort of a hidden love story, intertwined with some kick butt Gung Fu and quite of a bit of philosophical stuff. This movie does not, by any means, eclipse Donnie Yen’s Ipman, purely because Donnie Yen is a true and serious martial artist, Tony Leung is not (no offense to Tony; he’s been in some good movies like Infernal Affairs and 2046).

Donnie Yen’s Ipman story explores the brutality of the Japanese’s history towards the Chinese (and other Asians), and there’s a certain joy with seeing the Japanese getting their butts kicked given their proclivity for “selective memories” during World War Two where their wanton aggression and violence make Charles Manson’s antics look like child’s play. Besides, if one has seen Donnie Yen’s Ipman, his fight scene of Ipman confronting those 10 Japanese karate guys is downright some nasty, brutal, and massively kick butt stuff to watch over and over.

All in all, The Grandmaster is quite watchable and entertaining, and yet I thought that some of the filming was a bit overdone (much like House of the Flying Daggers) and coming across like a noire film injected with Botox doses of exhilarating Gung Fu. The movie is, of course, “free” for Amazon Prime members—and it’s worth watching, mind you with a few commercials, purely for entertainment’s sake.
One person found this helpful
R. NagashimaReviewed in the United States on October 18, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
What you need to know
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I have read several of the Amazon reviews for this film. All deal with the film itself. I could not find actual consumer information about the disc, so here is my contribution.

First, the content. The movie is the American version, if you didn’t know, and only the American version. There is another review that details the differences very well if you need to know.

I know that people don't care much these days, but there is a smattering of behind-the-scenes stuff about the film and the making of the film. A token contribution, but worth noting.

The disc is region A, meaning North America. This will play on typical American units.

The movie is in Chinese (Mandarin) with English subtitles. I'm sure everyone knows this, but it needs to be said explicitly somewhere. There is an spoken English language track for those who hate subtitles and, in my opinion, it is not horribly bad.

The run time is, by the box,108 minutes. Resolution is 1080p. The mpaa rating is PG-13.

I hope this helps.
One person found this helpful
Leon P.Reviewed in the United States on December 9, 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
A Fine Movie
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I'm not really a fan of wire work for telling stories that are based on reality but I've always been a fan of all things Ip Man. This movie is less a martial arts fight film and more of a philosophical journey telling the story behind the legendary Ip Man. Make no mistake, there's plenty of action throughout (a la Crouching Tiger/House of Flying Daggers) but it's really a story of an emerging ideology. An ideology later promoted by Ip Man's most famous student Bruce Lee. Great acting and an engaging story make this a film worth watching. If, like myself, you like all things Master Ip then I would recommend Ip Man (the movie) with Donnie Yen (Rogue One). They also made about 4 more Ip Man movies after the first one. Find Ip Man here on Amazon and just Ip out!
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