Although a longer (and I hear better) cut of The Grandmaster does exist, I have yet to see it so the following review will focus on the shorter, "West-friendly" version.
Iconic Chinese filmmaker Wong Kar Wai tackles the story of legendary martial artist Ip Man, this time casting the ever reliable Tony Leung in the role made even more popular to audiences by Donnie Yen some years prior. The result is a gorgeous looking film bearing all the class and style you'd expect Wong Kar Wai to bring to the table. The film opens with a thrilling fight in the pouring rain between Ip Man and a bunch of dudes and it promises one moody, kickass film to say the least. We are then given some historical background and introduced to Zhang Ziyi's character Gong Er, whom, it turns out, is actually the real focus of the film. In the US cut, of course. Actually, Ip Man's story ends up feeling almost intrusive seeing as there's already tons of films and drama series about the guy and relatively little about Gong Er, a genuinely interesting, tragic female character.
The Grandmaster is far more melodramatic than you'd expect, its third act feeling a lot like a high-budget soap opera. This wouldn't be so distracting if they hadn't sold the film as a kung-fu action flick focusing on Ip Man being badass all the way. There's a really good, heartbreaking film about a woman's struggle to get honour back to her family name in difficult times, but there's also a rather predictable and generic Ip Man movie in there so what you end up with is a slightly uneven mix. The Grandmaster is still stylish and beautifully made so it's still a treat and the action that there is is undeniably fun but pace-wise, the last half hour does drag a little bit. I'm guessing either the longer cut feels fuller and better paced or the US version could have done with even more cutting or with a bit of a makeover.
While many will leave the film not knowing anything more about Ip Man himself, most should appreciate the whole Gong Er arc. The Grandmaster is a surprisingly commercial and... normal film for Wong Kar Wai to make but the man is still talented enough to make this a worthy effort and a delicious piece of eye candy.