Chow Yun-Fat returns to the big screen after a 3-year hiatus with his follow-up to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Bulletproof Monk. Let's just say that this one isn't going to win any Oscars.
Chow stars as a monk with no name who is given immortal powers for 60 years to protect a sacred scroll that would give unlimited powers to anyone who reads it. Unfortunately, for the last 60 years he has been pursued by an evil Nazi who wants the scroll, and it is the year that he is supposed to pass his powers on to someone else. He finds possibility in an American pickpocket, the unlikely Seann William Scott.
Obviously, with a title like Bulletproof Monk, it is safe to assume that the movie is not going to take itself all that seriously. Chow Yun-Fat walks around the entire movie spitting out cheesy sayings about enlightenment and "finding yourself," hardly able to keep a straight face. Granted, some of the lines are fairly classic and intentionally silly, but they grow tired quickly as the whole movie is filled with stuff like this, and most of it is just not very funny. Really, it makes little sense as to why Chow would get into a movie like this, as it is far below his standards.
Then there's Scott, a.k.a. Stifler from the American Pie trilogy. He is obviously trying to branch out into other genres, namely action (he has the action-comedy The Rundown coming out this Friday), but he works much better as a comedian than as an action hero. Since we know that he is not a martial arts expert in real life, much of the action involving him looks fairly forced. His character is pretty bland as well, and I just never was impressed.
Of course, what really hurts Bulletproof Monk is not the cheesy sayings or boring acting, but the silly action. Chow can defy gravity, but the way the action scenes are shot, and an obvious lack of any kind of visual effects budget, result in a bunch of unimpressive scenes that do not even appear realistic in a fantastical way. Chow barely gets to fight, and the action scenes are so poorly done that it doesn't even matter.
Nevertheless, Bulletproof Monk does have an entertainment factor going for it; it is funny in a mainly intentional way. It isn't hard to watch and it is fun to laugh at the terrible graphics, silly sayings and other absurd things that are in the movie - for the most part it seems as though these were intentional.
Still, as a "serious" action-comedy Bulletproof Monk does not have enough of either, and as a spoof, it hardly cuts it. Instead, what is left is an entertaining but ultimately undesirable film.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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