Bulletproof Monk is again everything we've come to expect from any American released martial arts film not featuring the name of Jackie Chan on the poster. Overblown and overbearing, this one is top of the line cliché, mixing in the spotty traditions of overused wire-fu with the almost expected presence of a wisecracking sidekick. Not cliché enough for you? No problem since Bulletproof has fallen back on old Nazi standbys to play cartoonishly evil villains. Far better it would have been to plug the early introduced and quickly forgotten Mista Funktastic (Marcus J. Pirae) into the bad guy role.
At least he had a cool name going for him. With all the cool name potential already sucked right out of the film by Funktastic brilliance, there just weren?t enough names to go around, leaving Yun-Fat Chow's monk character intentionally nameless. So we meet up with our name-free monk friend right where you?d expect him to be, Tibet. Here he learns the scary good fighting ways of those crazy mountain wise men that seem to know everything about combat but fall to shit when asked to come up with decent battle tactics. That red rover? arm in arm thing didn't work for the hippies; it probably isn?t going to work for you.
The monk is now a guardian, of some crazy ancient scroll. Too dangerous to use, the monk must protect it to keep it away from those who would take its power and rule the world. If it were up to me I?d have just tossed the thing in a fire. Instead our monk friend goes to great lengths to preserve the words written on it. I guess job security is hard to find.
Flash forward 60 years. Hey, Seann William Scott (Dude Where's My Car) is in this movie! Yep, he's the wisecracking idiot we mentioned earlier. Personally, I like him better as a brain dead stoner. Conveniently enough, he's taught himself karate while watching Kung Fu flicks and thus ends up paired with Chow Yun-Fat in his modern day fight to ensure the continued preservation of the words on the scroll? which again, he really ought to have torn up and eaten by now. Paper shredder anyone?
While Seann and Yun-Fat seem to have pretty good chemistry together, Seann is clearly out-acted by a guy who can barely speak English. In his place, that's the sort of thing that might make me re-evaluate my career choices. Really though, that's Bulletproof Monk's saving grace. Yun-Fat, despite his lack of language skills can truly act. Unlike old genre familiars like Jet Li or Jean Claude Van-Damme, Chow offers up deftly handled performance skills even in the face of a badly written script. So, when he babbles on about inconsistent plot and protecting scrolls he should burn, we buy in, at leas as long as you don't spend much energy on the act of thinking.
The stunts themselves are entertaining, if not truly special. You've seen most of the best stuff in the trailer, but there is enough there to keep the movie fun no matter what might be going on with the silliness of its plot. Chemistry keeps this film alive. Even at their worst, the three primaries in the cast, Yun-Fat Chow, Seann William Scott, and bad girl James King play well off each other. Whether doing kicks or jokes, that interaction distracts you from the really miserable, tired out things about the movie that would otherwise make it an unbearable ride.
The real shame is simply that Yun-Fat, an engaging and admittedly skilled actor can't get a better movie than this. He strides through this thing with quiet dignity, bringing pride to a film where there really should be none. His winning smile and sharply traded jibes make him an instantly likable figure? stuck in yet another badly thought out martial arts movie. Typical villains, obligatory chick fights, and a host of other stupidly done things that you've seen about a million times before weigh the flick down. Only its well-played cast pulls Bulletproof Monk partially out of the abyss.