Bulletproof Monk


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Bulletproof Monk
The Masked Reviewer

Imagine the high-flying martial arts, impressive acting, and stunning cinematography of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  Now imagine the comedic brilliance of American Pie and Dude, Where's My Car.  Are you imagining that?  Good.  Now, keep the irreverent slacker from Pie and Dude, and hang him and Chow Yun-Fat from the wires in Crouching Tiger, and spin them around a lot. 

 Throw in the daughter of one of the largest cardboard manufacturers in the world and the screenwriting team who brought you Josh Kirby...Time Warrior!  V.5: Journey to the Magic Cavern, and you've got Bulletproof Monk

This film is the first to make the Masked Reviewer think that the use of wires should stop in Hollywood (unless they're being used to secretly record illicit sex acts).  Wires were a big hit in The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but it's now officially over done.  The thing with wirework in martial arts is that if the people on the wires aren't graceful and balanced, it looks like actors hanging on wires.  Even if they're as graceful and balanced as Jackie Chan, if the wirework is too out there it  looks fake.  It's not that you can see the wires, but if it's over-the-top, it loses all impact.  Mission Impossible 2 and Charlie's Angels featured people on wires who looked like they practiced for a while.  Chow Yun-Fat and Seann William Scott look like they're being hoisted around like two limp drunk marionettes.  And nothing is more sad than an intoxicated flaccid puppet.

But what if you're in the small group of people not yet underwhelmed by wires?  That's where Bulletproof Monk is sure to finish you off and make you wish for one more wire...to strangle yourself.

Chow Yun-Fat is always likeable on screen, even (or perhaps especially) as a hitman in John Woo's The Killer.  Seann WIlliam Scott (Dude, Where's My Car?, American Pie) is always charismatic on screen and fun to watch.  Added to the mix is Jamie King (a hottie model, no relation to Martin Luther King, Jr.) who has a great presence on screen. But the three principles can't seem to overcome some seriously weak writing. 

In action films, you can usually get around conspicuously bad writing by using stereotypical characters and tired old plot devices, because there's so much action you don't care.  Bulletproof Monk takes too much for granted.  Chow Yun-Fat's character is the master to Seann William Scott's character.  They meet, they have a couple of conversations, they have one ten second training scene, then they hang out in a weirdly undefined master-student relationship.  "Hey how are you, let's bond, that's great."  It's missing the obligatory "fight, lose, train, win" formula that we know and understand.  The characters are weakly defined and hard to care about, even though the people playing them are good and easy to watch.  Also in the mix is the fact that there really aren't any great fight scenes.  Scott has a few nice moves with a pipe, and the highlight is two women fighting (when isn't that a highlight).

It could be that the screenwriters bit off more they could Chow...er, chew (it's an adapted comic book).  Or it may have been that first time director Paul Hunter got tangled up in his wires.  But it does leave the audience wanting something....else.

As hinted at earlier, there are some things that people may find irresistible about the film, so they are listed here, not necessarily in order of importance:

bulletVictoria Smurfit co-stars.  Her father is one of the wealthiest men in Ireland and owns one of the largest paper and cardboard manufacturing companies in the world.  Smurfy.
bulletThe screenwriters, Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris, collaborated on Josh Kirby...Time Warrior! V. 5: Journey to the Magic Cavern.  Fans of that will be happy to see their return to writing for the silver screen..
bulletWatching the film gives you an opportunity to hear people yell out "Stifler!" whenever Seann William Scott comes on screen.  Boy, you can never get tired of that.
bulletOkay, get ready...here's the big one.  Special effects in this film were done by none other than TV's Boy Wonder, Burt Ward!!  Yes, that's right!  Burt Ward, Robin from the "Batman" television show of the 60's did some of the special effects.  Powie!  Kazaam!  Holy wire work!
bulletThere are Nazis, and it's not giving away too much to say that they get their comeuppance. 

On the down side, none of the monks actually appear to be bulletproof. 

Fans of Seann William Scott will find him likeable, but the film isn't particularly funny and not at all exciting.  Chow Yun-Fat's fans will find his portrayal of a monk to be a bit too wimpy.  If you thought the jump from The Killer and A Better Tomorrow to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was big for Chow Yun-Fat, this is even further.  He was tougher in Anna and the King.  It's hard to think of anyone who'd love this film, though as a mindless diversion, it's okay. 

MGM did have the most unusual giveaway that the Masked Reviewer has seen in a while:  black rubber bands with the film's title and release date printed on them.  Hmm.  Not a single rubber band in the movie.  Makes you think, doesn't it?  Very Zen.

Expectation from the Title: Daring exploits of the first monkey on a SWAT team.  Yeah, I know it's not Bulletproof Monkey, but that movie would've been so much better.

Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):  Those silk robes look very fetching on a man, not at all feminine.

The Pros: Robin did some of the visual effects.  The principle actors are all appealing to see on screen.  There was a monkey in one scene.

 The Cons: Too many effects for effects' sake.  Poor plot development, poor character development, too many wires. 


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