There is an interesting story somewhere within The Grandmaster. It just never really gets told in any sort of fashion that really works as a movie.
The story of The Grandmaster is told through text, narration, and regular scenes of dialogue. It seems to choose the medium through which it will tell each part of its story by random. In one moment a character will be speaking directly to the audience through voice over. Which character is speaking is totally different depending on the scene. Then suddenly text will cover the screen and a whole part of the story will be told through text instead of any kind of visuals. This is very disorienting and it never really makes sense why they choose text or narration or to just have a scene play out regularly. Every choice of telling this story feels so completely random.
The acting in the movie is fine, but because every story element is presented so randomly it never gives a person a real chance to develop their characters on screen. One minute their performance is on screen and the next it is skipped over and presented through text.
There are some well done fight scenes in the movie, but that is about the only excitement that occurs during the movie's running time. For the most part the fight scenes aren't even that interesting either. There just seems to be not a whole lot of emotion behind any of the fight scenes. In fact, there isn't a lot of emotion to be found anywhere in the movie. The only person who gets any emotion successfully onto the screen is Ziyi Zhang as Gong Er who loves the titular character of Ip Man, but cannot express it due to a vow she has previously made.
Wong Kar Wai, the director of the movie, knows how to showcase emotion on screen. He also knows how to tell a story successfully on screen. Unfortunately, for this movie, he seems to have forgotten how to do any of these things. Things in The Grandmaster just kind of happen and the movie just kind of keeps moving along without any reason or emotion behind anything that takes place. Some of the scenes look pretty and the actors are all talented, but nothing really has any purpose behind it and none of the actors really get a chance to showcase their skills. The Grandmaster unfortunately is an interesting story told with its soul and sense of purpose removed.