Bulletproof Monk

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The ViewChristchurch Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/04/2003

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

Great title, disappointing movie – there’s a terrific film in here somewhere that desperately wants to get out, but its terrible script just won’t let it.

It’s not hard to see why Bulletproof Monk got made – the pitch must have been hilarious. “It’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Stifler – Chow Yun-Fat and Seann William Scott: Together at Last!” Sadly, the title is probably the best thing about the film - even the tag-line (“A monk. A punk. A chick. A kick-ass flick.”) somehow doesn’t seem quite right. Which is a shame, because with a couple of heavy-duty rewrites, this could have been brilliant.

Ninja Scrolls And Nazis

The film opens in 1943 with a fight between two monks on a rope-bridge over an annoyingly CGI-ed chasm. One of these monks is Chow Yun-Fat and, having finally beaten his mentor, he is shown a secret scroll that conveys superhuman power and is told a) that he must give up his name, and b)that it will be his duty to guard the scroll for the next 60 years (handily, the scroll also stops you from aging). However, with impeccable German timing, a bunch of Nazis show up looking for the scroll, slaughter all the monks and completely ruin Chow’s mentor’s vacation plans.

“Sixty Years Later”, Chow’s Monk With No Name shows up in New York and bumps into Seann William Scott’s street punk ‘Kar’ (crazy name, crazy guy). The Monk spots unusual potential in Kar (thanks to a hilariously cheesy ancient prophesy) and they eventually team up to help protect the scroll from Nina The Evil Blonde Lady (Victoria Smurfitt) and her squad of Hired Goons. Oh, and Jaime King (who, confusingly, used to be called James) is also on hand as the love interest…

The main problem with the film is the script. Seann William Scott is a talented comic actor and, as he’s proven with Road Trip, American Pie, Dude, Where’s My Car? etc, he can make practically anything funny. However, he’s given almost no funny or memorable lines and his character seems painfully under-drawn. (They really should have brought in the American Pie writers, turned him into Stifler and set him loose…)

The action scenes are also annoying, in that they are intermittently brilliant (a stunt on a helicopter for example), but shot so badly so that one moment you can clearly see what’s going on and the next, there’s a flurry of confusing cuts and close-ups. Films like Blade II and Shanghai Knights have the sense to leave the fights to the choreographers and let the cameras stand well back, so it’s infuriating that other films don’t follow suit.

In fact, the treatment of the action scenes is true of the film as a whole. Occasionally there are flashes of the film it could have been and then it messes it up again.

Enjoyably Bad Moments

That’s not to say that it’s unwatchable and there are some enjoyably bad moments, particularly Marcus Jean Pirae as “Mr Funktastic”, the unlikely cockney leader of a gang of subway punks (“You got a big pair of orchestras, mate – shame I’ll ‘ave to cut ‘em off!”) Similarly, Victoria Smurfitt makes the most of her Evil Bitch character, particularly during one scene that somehow dodged the 12A certificate…

As for Chow Yun-Fat, he’s somewhat hampered by his poor English, not to mention the Godawful ‘philosophical’ crap he has to spout, but he does his best with what he’s got. Similarly, Jaime King is undoubtedly easy on the eye, though her character isn’t really developed either. Well, it is, but only in a gob-smackingly ridiculous fashion, involving cupboards full of explosives…

In short, Bulletproof Monk is a disappointment, largely because it’s so easy to see how much better it could have – and should have - been. Still, it does pick up as it goes along and is just about worth seeing if you lower your expectations.

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Content updated: 18/07/2018 07:17

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