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:
|Victoria 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.|
|The 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
|Watching 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.|
|Okay, 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!|
|There 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
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.