7 Grandmasters is something of a kung fu road movie. During his retirement ceremony, an aging kung fu master receives a letter that he may not be the best champion in the land. He decides to battle the masters of each province to prove his worth. The two year journey leads to secrets, betrayals, and a number of amazing fights. It also leads to questions of just what kind of man he really is.
Old school kung fu movies are not known for their drawn out death scenes. Most of the battles are about proving a point or putting someone in their place. 7 Grandmasters sees a series of battles that are all about respect. Most of the fights are scheduled and begin and end with pleasantries. The exceptions are the awesome closing fight and an all out brawl that takes place at an inn.
The fight choreography in the film is some of the best found in the genre. The battles become increasingly difficult and contentious. What starts as a simple one one on one fight progresses to one with various weapons before ending with a three on three battle for supremacy. Each looks amazing and different. 7 Grandmasters may be little more than a series of fight scenes, but none where out there welcome.
It is a nice change of pace from the other kung fu movies. 7 Grandmasters does have the training montage element and the last ten minutes leads to a final fight that is all about avenging the death of someone’s father, but it never feels like similar films. The bare bones plot allows director Joseph Kuo to concentrate on other aspects. For example, there are some great camera shots to be found.
Every fight has meaning since each victory is one step closer to becoming the best fighter in the land. It is refreshing to see progression that goes beyond bumbling fool to all around master. The battle with the main villain has little development, but the actual fight itself is arguably the best one in 7 Grandmasters. This leads to a closing sequence that brings everything full circle.
7 Grandmasters will be screening at the Old School Kung Fu Fest on December 12
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