The Grandmaster (Yi dai zong shi) 1.0 stars

Why, Wong Kar, why is every major Asian action director compelled to bring forth a stodgy historical epic? As if Wilson Yip’s two exceptional biopics on martial arts legend Ip Man weren’t enough, Wong Kar-Wai, a legend in his own right, offers this disordered, sorely cheerless elucidation. It’s a kung-fu picture for those not normally predisposed to kung-fu pictures. The opening fight scenes — particularly the director’s enlistment of close-ups and the kind of accelerated motion that turns raindrops into projectives with every swivel of Tony Leung’s Leone-sized hat brim — combine with a historical rundown of the various forms and styles of kung-fu to give the film its solid first half hour. But after the entrance of unrequited love — a pet theme of the director’s that, for once, adds a wet log to the fire — you’ll be in the mood for a nap. Fifteen minutes were trimmed for the American release. For once, scissor-happy Harvey might have done us a favor. 2013.

Scott Marks

This movie is not currently in theaters.

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