It may have cleaned up at the 33rd Hong Kong Film Awards – its 12 victories is a record – but The Grandmaster is Wong’s most disappointing local effort. A martial arts epic starring Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Zhang Ziyi, the film took nearly 10 years to arrive, from initial conception to release in 2013, and the film, unfortunately, suffers from Wong’s trademark confused plotting and ad-hoc scriptwriting – witness Razor’s (Chang Chen) perplexing sudden introduction and departure. Wong attempts to untether the martial arts genre from its conventions, similar to how he liberated wuxia from its clichés in Ashes of Time, but the result is much less successful here. The action is pedestrian, neither as bone-crunching as the likes of The Raid or Ong-Bak or as fantastic as Once Upon a Time in China. And in the film’s simultaneously sparse and excessive plotting, Wong only serves to heighten the tired mystification of martial arts rather than reduce it.
There’s no more controversial figure in Hong Kong cinema that Wong Kar-wai. The Shanghai-born auteur, who moved to this city when he was five, is lauded by his fans as one of the world’s finest directors, a master of film technique and a romantic artist of the highest order. To his detractors, Wong is self-indulgent, an artist whose disjointed, ramshackle productions careen embarrassingly over schedule and budget. Whatever your take, the man is undoubtedly the most famous Hong Kong director of his age. Join us as we rank all his locally made films, from the least impressive to the best.
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