At just 75-minutes long, The Grandmaster of Kung Fu barely feels like a feature-length movie, despite fitting in plenty of the tropes associated with the martial arts movie. It simply moves at a brisk pace, only really slowing down the plot to savor the fight sequences, understanding that this the likely reason most enjoy the action sub-genre. By leaning on well-worn tropes, The Grandmaster of Kung Fu is able to rely on the audience’s awareness of the familiar structure, focusing instead on the fun stuff.
Set near the end of the Qing Dynasty, the film follows protagonist and hero Huo Yuan Jia (Dennis To Yue Hong), a martial artist who is initially shunned by his peers before proving his value by standing up to fight in a match with the Japanese army who have occupied the area. As is often the case, the Japanese make for an easy enemy. It also brings back the longstanding tradition in martial arts film, groups arguing their fighting style is better than another. This leads to an inevitable showdown, which is exciting enough to forgive how poorly developed much of the story is.
The Grandmaster of Kung Fu is serviceable. It isn’t mind-blowingly good, nor is it unbearably bad. It reminded me of multiple better films, but I wasn’t bored watching it. This may not be stellar praise, but if you are a fan of martial arts films and in need of something to watch, there are much worse options. While there are some sub-plots and significant relationships, the whole point is just to get to the fight scenes. And The Grandmaster of Kung Fu does these pretty well. If only slightly over-edited, the fight choreography is clever and skillfully executed.
The Blu-ray release only has the high-definition presentation to offer, with no special features beyond a trailer. The film itself looks and sounds great. It may be a smaller film, but it has the look of a larger budget release, perhaps because of the truncated length.
Entertainment Value: 8/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance: 2/10
Special Features: 0/10