Bulletproof Monk

Like “Old School” and “Deep Throat: The High School Years,” “Bulletproof Monk” is the latest attempt by Hollywood to bridge the generation gap, bringing together an older star and a younger star in the hopes expanding box office appeal. The strategy backfires, as the only appealing thing about “Bulletproof Monk” was that projectionist managed to keep the film is focus for a torturous hour and forty-four minutes.

Based on the 1999 graphic novel of the same name, “Bulletproof Monk” is a hybrid of action, comedy, and adventure films, blended together into an unsatisfying mishmash that assaults more than entertains. You don’t go into a film called “Bulletproof Monk” expecting logic to dictate, but what ends up on the screen is more mystifying than the Scroll of the Ultimate, a magical document that a Tibetan Monk (Chow Yun-Fat) has been guarding against evil for the past sixty years.

Surely you all remember the Scroll of the Ultimate. While one group of Nazis was busy trying to steal the Lost Ark of the Covenant away from Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Third Reich henchman Struker (Karel Roden) and his troops were trying to steal the scroll away from an unnamed Monk in a Tibetan village. Legend has it whoever reads the entire scroll out loud has the power to rule the world, for good or for evil. It also has comes with an anti-aging clause, which explains why the Monk, who shows up in present day New York City, still looks the same, while Struker, still hot on his trail, looks like grandpa in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

The Monk with No Name (nod to Clint Eastwood and his Spaghetti Western character) has come to New York looking for a successor. We soon learn that the turnover rate for guardians of the scroll is sixty years, so the Monk needs to find a replacement, and soon. The Monk believes he has found one in common pickpocket Kar (Seann William Scott), a young man who learned martial arts from the Bruce Lee films he screens as a projectionist at a decrepit old theater.

Those skills come in handy when Kar lifts the scroll from Monk, and later encounters a leather- clad gang of thugs, including the kick-ass Jade (Jamie King), who eventually turns out to be one of the good guys, uh, girls. Believing that Kar possesses the ingredients needed to carry on the tradition of guarding the scroll, Monk begins preparing him for the job of a lifetime, literally. Their training is interrupted when Struker and his beautiful but deadly Aryan granddaughter (Victoria Smurfit) reenter the scene, still desperate to acquire the scroll for their own evil purposes.

What sounds like a good time is actually a mind blowing series of tired action scenes and relentlessly trite dialogue that sounds as if it were lifted from rejected scripts of television’s “Kung-Fu.” You feel sorry for Yun-Fat, one of Asia’s most popular actors, who is reduced to a B-list Jackie Chan clone, minus the genuine sense of humor. Chan knows how to mix comedy and action, creating exciting and exhilarating moments of giddy fun, but Yun-Fat isn’t as adept. He’s far too noble to be playing straight man to Seann William Scott, the perennial “dude” from “American Pie” and “Dude Where’s My Car?”

Scott is the “grasshopper” to Yun-Fat’s “Master,” and their training session is filled with profound lessons in objectivity and bad fortune cookie mumbo jumbo. Before long, Kar, like Monk, is able to defy gravity. Too bad the writers couldn’t do the same. Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris never manage to elevate “Bulletproof Monk” above the ordinary. They cut and paste from various genres, not once stretching to make the material their own.

They get absolutely no help from director Paul Hunter, another music video wunderkind making his theatrical debut. Like most music video directors, Hunter hides his lack of talent behind quick cuts and thundering music, which might satisfy the MTV crowd, but leave the rest of us bleary- eyed and throbbing. He never gives the actors time to create a character, much less inhabit them.

Hunter’s job is to connect the dots, which he does, but without any purpose. The production design is as generic as the city standing in for New York, and the “Matrix” inspired action is so yesterday you wonder why anyone even bothered. Plot revelations are telegraphed long before they become relevant, leaving no room for surprise. “Bulletproof Monk” rambles on way too long. Thirty minutes into the film you get the point, a point that the writers and director keep driving home in an old model piece of junk that barely makes it to the finish line.


Plot of action hybrid is underfed and overused


Chow Yun-Fat, Seann William Scott, Jamie King, Karel Roden, Victoria Smurfit, Mako. Directed by Paul Hunter. Rated PG-13. 104 Minutes.


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