There are some lesser known comic book adaptations that are trying to crawl out from the shadow of the X-men, Spidermen and Hulks of the world, which is where Bulletproof Monk comes in.
Based on an underground comic book, a Tibetan Monk without a name (Chow Yun Fat) is entrusted with protecting a sacred scroll which allows the reader to bring heaven or hell to earth. Obviously the monks cannot allow anyone to read the scroll and the guardian of the scroll receives powers allowing them to dodge bullets and never age, which help in protecting them and the scroll.
With a scroll as powerful as this; other people are obviously interested in using it for evil – step in the Nazis, namely Strucker (Karel Roden) who arrives at the monastery and proceeds to kill all the monks. Only the Monk with No Name escapes with the scroll.
Fast forward 60 years to present day (luckily for the Monk that whole 'no aging' thing works) and The Monk is wandering around New York. He’s still being pursued by Strucker, but as he’s now an old man confined to a wheelchair, his granddaughter Nina (leather clad Victoria Smurfit) and her army of goons to do the leg work (no pun intended)
Whilst being pursued, The Monk meets a young pickpocket, Kar (Sean William Scott). Within Kar, The Monk sees potential for him to take over and become the next protector of the scroll - if Kar can fulfil the three parts of an ancient prophecy.
Unfortunately time is running out for The Monk and Kar as Strucker and his army are closing in and if the scroll falls into their hands the all will be lost.
Bulletproof Monk is entertaining enough in it own right, but the potential of a major franchise is lost. Some of the characters are very much underwritten and at times it plays like an expensive B-Movie. The action suffers from Intimate Camera Involvement Syndrome™, which means that the camera is trying to get as close to the action as possible and as a result all that can be seen is a flurry of confusing shots and flailing fists. When will filmmakers realise that action should be left to the choreographers and if the audience can see the action more clearly then they appreciate it more. It could also be just a method of hiding the fact that your actors cannot fight and have just learnt a move or two a couple of weeks before filming.
This is another Matrix-lite type of action film, where gravity seems to be having a day off – in the words of The Monk – gravity exists only if you think it does. This probably only works for R Kelly, who believes he can fly, and touch the sky.
Performances range from okay to the down right plain standard rent-a-villain complete with maniacal glee. Chow Yun Fat has some awful philosophical dialogue which he somehow manages to wade through albeit a little tongue-in-cheek. Sean William Scott tries hard to loose his American Pie Stifler image and succeeds in parts. Other time you expect him to burst into some Stifler type comments especially when Jamie King turns up as a love interest. Karel Roden who was excellent in 15 Minutes plays the villain with all the classic trademarks – evil grins, rampaging anger and twitches galore. Victoria Smurfit is obviously in there to appeal to the fellas as is Jamie King.
Bulletproof Monk has moments where the film shows great potential, but it also looses it pacing a lot. It entertaining enough as a light action film with good chemistry between the two leading roles, but on the whole it’s not going to threaten any of the big Marvel franchises in the comic book adaptation stakes.
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