Bulletproof Monk

For Chow Yun-Fat to follow the phenomenal Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with a movie like Bulletproof Monk is disappointing. For names like Terence Chang, John Woo, and Mako to have their names associated with a movie like this just adds to the disappointment. Bulletproof Monk is based on a comic book, and retains the feel and attitude of its source material, and that is not necessarily a good thing. However, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was about grace and elegance, and Bulletproof Monk is more about action and comedy. And Chow (Anna and the King) does look like he's having fun with the material, which doesn't call on him to do much. At most, he has to spout cheesy little philosophical lines for most of the film.

Chow's character is a monk without a name. He gave up his name in 1943 to protect a sacred scroll. If the scroll fell into the wrong hands, the reader would gain the power to rule the world. Strucker (Karel Roden, Blade II, 15 Minutes), a Nazi, is after the scroll. As protector of the scroll, he stays young and has supernatural powers. The movie flashes forward to the present, where people are still after the scroll. The monk runs into Kar (Seann William Scott, Old School, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), a pickpocket that intrigues him. He sees strong potential in Kar, strong enough that Kar may be his successor as the protector of the scroll. See, Kar picks pockets and changes film reels in a theater that plays Chinese kung-fu movies, where he taught himself martial arts.

Kar reluctantly becomes involved with the monk in the plot to protect the scroll, as does Jade (Jamie [no longer James] King, Pearl Harbor, Slackers). It is interesting watching former model King try out different roles, and she does have promise as a successful actor. It is not interesting watching the odd pairing of Chow and Scott, known mostly for dumb-guy roles. Bulletproof Monk's screenplay by Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris (Demon Knight, Men of War) is too thin on anything of substance to make Scott and Chow interesting to watch. Bad dialogue abounds on all fronts, as does a lack of chemistry between Kar and Jade.

The only thing left is special effects, which director Paul Hunter relies on far too much. Hunter is the latest in a virtual parade of music video directors making the transition to film. He can do the flashy editing, but his style is all wrong for this picture. The scenes switch so quickly during some of the fight scenes that he manages to obscure all of the impressive stunts happening. One shot he does linger on is Chow standing on top of a car holding a gun in each hand, which only serves to remind viewers of his earlier, more violent and more engaging work with Woo in Hong Kong. The stunts are in the style of gravity-defying martial arts, but instead of looking natural it feels kind of cheesy. In fact, much of the film looks as if it were filmed over a decade ago.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 44 minutes, Rated PG-13 for violence, language, and some sexual content.

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