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With: Chow Yun-Fat, Seann William Scott, Jaime King, Karel Roden, Victoria Smurfit, Marcus Jean Pirae, Mako, Roger Yuan, K.C. Collins, Sean Bell, Kishaya Dudley, Rob Archer, Mauricio Rodas, Bayo Akinfemi, Russell Yuen
Written by: Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris
Directed by: Paul Hunter
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, language and some sexual content
Running Time: 104
Date: 04/16/2003

Bulletproof Monk (2003)

1 Star (out of 4)

Junky 'Monk'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After ten years of major Hong Kong filmmaking talents working in Hollywood, producers still don't quite know what to do with them.

We have John Woo directing Nicolas Cage in half-baked war movies while Woo's best and most frequent co-star Chow Yun-fat is stuck in garbage like Bulletproof Monk.

Not to mention that Chow is really not a martial artist, but rather a superior actor, more in line with Cary Grant or Robert Mitchum or Lee Marvin; suave, tough, cool, funny, smooth. (His fights in Crouching Tiger were the result of special effects.)

Chow plays an unnamed monk whose job is to guard a sacred scroll; whoever reads the scroll in its entirety will rule the world. Each monk guards for 60 years and Chow's time is just about up. Unfortunately, an evil Nazi (Karel Roden) has spent the last 60 years trying to kill Chow and get the scroll.

For some reason, Chow has left his Tibetan monastery and come to New York (actually Canada), where he finds a twerpy pickpocket (Seann William Scott) who might be the next guard. And, of course, we also have the obligatory cute girl, Jade (Jaime -- formerly "James" -- King).

The rest defies good sense and can't easily being explained without breaking into a rash. (The talented screenwriters previously wrote movies for Dolph Lundgren.)

Let's instead focus on the action sequences, as guided by music video director Paul Hunter (best known for Mariah Carey videos, God help us). Normally, a bad Hollywood action movie puts together an action scene by shaking the camera and cutting every half-second. Hunter does all that, but also hits a new low by leaving huge, ugly gaps in space and time between cuts; no two shots ever seem to match.

For example, in one scene, Chow and Scott climb over a high stone wall. Chow jumps up to the top of the wall and lowers his coat for Scott to climb up with. We know that the coat wouldn't reach to the ground, but Hunter simply cuts around it and shows Scott landing safely on the other side.

But Chow, with his oodles of charm, hovers above the mess; he manages to exude grace even in his scenes with the grinning twit Scott.

Chow's best moment in Bulletproof Monk has him standing on top of a car brandishing a firearm in each hand -- his signature stance from the classic John Woo films A Better Tomorrow Parts I and II, The Killer and Hard-Boiled. But, ironically, anyone who gets that reference is likely to have seen those great films and will understand just how awful Bulletproof Monk really is.

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