For 60 years a mysterious monk with no name has zigzagged the globe to protect an ancient scroll - a scroll that holds the key to unlimited power. Now the Monk must look for a new scrollkeeper. Kar is an unlikely candidate, a streetwise young man whose only interest is himself. But when he inadvertently saves the Bulletproof Monk from capture, the two become partners in a scheme to save the world from the scroll's most avid pursuer. Packed with spectacular special effects and martial arts action, the Monk, Kar, and a sexy Russian mob princess called Bad Girl must struggle to find, face, and fight the ultimate enemy. Written by
Chow Yun-Fat is the "Monk with No Name" who protects an ancient scroll. Anyone who recites the scroll can harness unlimited power, utilizing it for either good or evil. The scroll-keeper has the advantage of not aging and not being able to be physically harmed. The Monk has been on the run from would be rulers of the universe for 60 years when he finally runs into a potential new scroll-keeper as promised by prophecies.
Bulletproof Monk is a "light" comic book/fantasy/action/martial arts/comedy film in the vein of The Golden Child (1986) and The Medallion (2003). It leans most strongly towards the fantasy genre, but it's frequently funny (perhaps more subtly than one would expect) and loaded with visually poetic, wire-heavy martial arts.
Seann William Scott is Kar, a street kid who has a flair for kung fu, which he picked up by endlessly watching and emulating Asian films at the theater where he both lives and works as the projectionist. He has even more of a flair for pickpocketing. The Monk runs into him while both are on the run, and there are a number of cleverly staged scenes where Kar tries to palm a few extra bucks while the Monk attempts to teach him both ethics and enlightenment via koans about things like hot dogs and buns.
During these early scenes, they run into a hilarious group of what are effectively CHUDs (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers) minus the C, headed by a rooster-haired thug named "Funktastic". This is some of the more slyly funny material in the film--the HUDs even have an abandoned subway car turned disco in their underground lair.
The kung fu throughout most of Bulletproof Monk is of the variety often mythologized by kids as being akin to "magic". The Monk can defy gravity, move fast enough that he seems to predict his opponent's moves with near omniscience, and dodge bullets. He can even fight and eat a bowl of Cocoa Puffs at the same time. The real aim is to approach a Matrix (1999)-like reality-bending in the film's universe. Although the fantasy, almost dance-like nature of many of the fight scenes may turn off those looking for more realistic action, Troy Liddell also choreographs some parts of fight scenes more traditionally, with Yun-Fat performing something very similar to aikido--he primarily yields instead of blocking or countering, and uses his opponent's moves against themselves. It's an interesting approach that isn't used often enough in martial arts films.
The principle flaw with Bulletproof Monk is that too many plot elements and characters seem to flow by too quickly. There isn't a lot of time to delve very far into many threads. This gives the film a more superficial feel that should have been solved by lengthening and tightening the focus to give elements at least a typical James Bond film significance and weight. Aspects of the film may also be a bit too clichéd for some viewers tastes.
But you probably wouldn't watch Bulletproof Monk expecting a masterpiece. As a wispy fantasy/action film, geared as much towards adolescents as any other age group, Bulletproof Monk is a rewarding way to spend an hour and a half. I'm a fan of Yun-Fat's work, including this film, and I enjoyed both Scott and Jaime King's performances quite a bit. In fact, I liked the film enough to hope for a sequel.
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