Bulletproof Monk (2003)
Ebert: San Francisco Examiner: TV Guide:
Warning, minor plot points revealed!
For a movie based on a comic book and staring Hong Kong film legend Chow Yun-Fat, Bulletproof Monk was surprisingly not the great film I expected. It was fun to watch and it had a few good fight scenes but over all it was a sloppy story with a mismatched duo so mismatched that they never really click.
In 1943 Tibet, guardianship of The Scroll of the Ultimate is bestowed upon a monk who forsakes his name (for some reason) and is given a 60 year pause as far as aging goes to protect the scroll. Since he's a monk, he's also (obviously) a well trained martial arts master who apparently studied his technique at Wudan. Seconds after he is made guardian of the scroll Nazi's attempt to steal it. (As we know from Raiders of the Lost Ark Nazi's love religious artifacts that bestow power upon those who possess them.) He escapes from the Nazi's and we fast forward ahead to 2003. Here we meet Stifler from American Pie or Kar as he's called in this film. A pickpocket who has taught himself kung fu by watching kung fu movies in the theatre that he works at and lives in. The Monk and Kar meet, the Monk witnesses Kar's martial arts skills and realizes that he is on his way to fulfilling the prophecies that determine the next custodian of the scroll. The grand daughter of the Nazi from '43 and her henchmen have been pursuing the Monk for years. She must capture the scroll before the old Nazi dies so it can restore him ( like the Holy Grail did for Indy's father in The Last Crusade.) Oh yeah, there's also a hot chick called Bad Girl or Jade who knows some kung fu too and teams up with The Monk and Kar to fight the Nazi's.
The fight scenes were decent but not really par with what we've come to expect from martial arts films today. There was a decent amount of wire fighting which despite it's over use in recent films of the past 5 years is still fun to watch. I like watching hot girls doing kung fu as well so it was fun to see the showdown between Bad Girl and the Nazi's grand daughter. There was one scene (pictured above) that the director swiped directly out of one of Chow Yun-Fat's old John Woo movies but unfortunately it did not end in a bloodbath like those early masterpieces The Killer and Hard Boiled. This film was very much a victim of it's PG-13 rating.
Chow Yun-Fat obviously needed some beer money or quick cash for some reason because this movie was definitely a step below his standing. You can actually tell throughout the entire film that his heart's just not in it. Another problem I had was that I could not believe or accept Stifler in the role of kung fu master / hero. He's just too dorky to play the part. He's Stifler and that's all he'll ever be! There was no chemistry between the duo. Mismatched buddy pictures often create a balance and harmony when characters are forced together. This crucial and necessary concord never materializes.
Also the nazi's would just show up every 20 minutes of so without any indication as to how they kept finding The Monk and Stifler. And the old Nazi was played so over the top that even he was difficult to accept.
I gave this movie three stars only because the fight scenes were entertaining. Not great and nothing new, but entertaining. I also really like Chow Yun-Fat even if he's just going through the motions.
This was my last film of the Spring movie season and I guess it's as good as most of what was available so far. My favorite time of the year starts next month when Summer Movie season begins. I guarantee, the next eight months will be the greatest in the history of motion pictures so if you call me or stop by for a visit and I'm not home you can find me 3rd row center at the movies.