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Bulletproof Monk
2003 - PG-13 - 104 Mins.
Director: Paul Hunter
Producer: Charles Roven, Terence Chang, John Woo
Written By: Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris
Starring: Seann William Scott, Chow Yun-Fat, Jaime King, Karol Roden, Mako
Review by: John Ulmer
   
My first impression upon hearing of "Bulletproof Monk" was, "Even the title stinks." I had a strong suspicion that the film would be a disaster, just another chance for some low-key actors to be able to look like they're the cast of "The Matrix," but I remained the optimist all the way up until I attended a preview of the movie. Let's just say it lives up to it's horrible title in one way, but totally disregards it in another, as "The Monk" of the title is not very bulletproof at all, nor very powerful. Bullets even leave scars and knock him out when he gets shot. Huh?

The movie starts out in Tibet in 1943. An old monk who is training a protégée (Chewin' Fat, err, Chow Yun-Fat) finally decides that his trainee is ready to become the cashier at a McDonald's. "Your time has come," he says, and hands over the McDonald's Cloak of Power and Spiffy Baseball Hat with the Emblem on it. (Just kidding, I couldn't resist.)

Actually, the old monk decides his trainee is ready to be the next protector of something special, and so he spills his guts to the protégée . For the past sixty years he has been the overseer of an ancient scroll buried deep within a temple. If anyone were to read the words from the scroll, they would gain infinite power and control the universe. "Mankind is not ready for this much power, and may never be," says the monk, before handing over his powers to his protégée, who suddenly gains a hoard of super-cool powers, like being able to balance on things really well (wow!).

Soon a Nazi with a terrible German accent comes to their monestery looking for the scroll. He kills "The Master" but not "The Protégée" and so "The Protégée" kicks some major butt. He eventually gets shot in the chest and falls off a cliff but we find out he's not dead, otherwise there would be no movie. (Too bad.)

Flash forward sixty years later to New York City. A pickpocket thief named Kar (Seann William Scott, and yes, his name is Kar) runs into The Monk, who decides - for some stupid reason - that the undisciplined punk is the next protector of the scroll. Of course, the kid wants no part of his destiny, until the end of the film. Isn't it always like that in the movies?

The movie never explains how The Monk got to America, nor how he came across Kar, nor why he specifically wants Kar (other than that he "fulfills the prophecy" a few times by coincedence). I guess we're just supposed to give the film's plot the benefit of the doubt. This would be acceptable if the film was entertaining, but it's a boring piece of trash.

"Bulletproof Monk" is like a corny comic book adaptation. For those who like their popcorn seeds to jump into the movie and infiltrate it, then this movie is for you. Okay, if you want a pleasant picture of this movie, I'll give you one. Imagine if "The Matrix" took drugs and had a lovechild with another druggie, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." "Bulletproof Monk" would be their offspring. Not a second can go by without loud explosions, chases on foot, encounters with fool bad guys, and special martial arts techniques that are so obviously done with bungee cords it isn't even funny. It lacks every inch of ingenuity "The Matrix" had and every martial arts spectacular that "Crouching Tiger..." had. The martial arts in this movie aren't even fun to look at. And we are supposed to believe that Car has learned martial arts from studying Bruce Lee films? Yeah, right.

"Bulletproof Monk" is a lot like 2002's "The Tuxedo." It's corny, it's stupid, it persists to use action sequences every five seconds, and it has a really cheesy, action-packed ending that would make Arnie blush. But at least Jackie Chan can make films fun to watch. He's a funny guy. Chow Yun Fat is not funny - I couldn't even tell what the heck he was saying half the time - but to say that he is the film's only flaw is to say that "Bulletproof Monk" is an artistically vibrant film with depth.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

 
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