9. The Grandmaster
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.