Walletthief Punk
Bulletproof Monk
Review by Ross Anthony

1943 TIBET: A micro close up of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly. The energy of the wings can be seen as the camera widens, the insect breaks free from the cocoon and takes flight, the camera widens still. The empty cocoon shakes violently on a taught rope pulled and released. The camera widens further to reveal the reason for the jostle -- two Asian masters battle high above a bottomless canyon. They hop, twist, bend, even fly across old wooden planks strung across a narrow swaying rope bridge.

This creative, careful, artful opening feels spun with magic. The martial arts too, sort of a welcome marriage of "Crouching Tiger" and "LOTR." Swiftly and disciplined, this beauty is cut with harsh violence, nothing gross, just a brutal contrast.

2003 USA: The only surviving Monk (Chow) finds himself chased down metropolitan America alongside a common thief (Scott). Their contrasting sentiment and nature is complementary, welcome and fun. Monk thinks the thief has compassion potential so he smiles and takes his time to illuminate. Thief smirks, "This is America, we don't have any enlightenment here." The repartee between the two unlikely partners is what fuels the film. The coco-puffs scene rocks.

Films need circumstances in which to play out this repartee, and unfortunately, the circumstances in this film drop from magical (the opening sequence), to "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (which I liked!), to uninspired dime-a-dozen comicbook. Which is a real shame, because this could have been an outstanding film. Even some of the dialogue endured momentary lapses of quality.

Still, the idea, the players, and some of the execution, manage to keep this film more or less fun. But, it's the good heart that will just barely hold the picture in the B+ range. If only the rest was as rich as that opening sequence. That said, young folks even as young as 6 and 7 will love this picture -- all the way up to as old as 14 (that's my best guessing).

Interesting Notes:
The script is based on a 3-comic series by Flypaper Press of the same name printed in the late '90's. Chow, a friend of the producers, was brought onto the project even before the rewrites.

[Interview with Sean William Scott and Jamie King]

  • Bulletproof Monk. Copyright © 2003.
  • Starring Chow Yun-Fat, Seann William Scott, Jaime King, Karel Roden, Victoria Smurfit.
  • Directed by Paul Hunter.
  • Screenplay by Ethan Reiff & Cyrus Voris.
  • Produced by Charles Roven, Terence Chang, John Woo, Douglas Segal at MGM.

Grade..........................B+ (Weak)

Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:19:30 PDT