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"Bulletproof Monk"

Directed by Paul Hunter.
Written by Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris.
Starring Chow Yun-Fat and Seann William Scott.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  4/21/03

My friend Eben “Don’t Call Me Evan” Burnham-Snyder forwarded this link from the New York Times that is a hilarious recounting of the obsession that is TiVo.  Required reading:

Eben, dammit, I love you.


Long-time Bellviewers know that Chow Yun-Fat is my favorite living actor.  So, even though “Bulletproof Monk” looks like dogshit in the trailers, I had to see it because I see all of Chow’s films.

Oh, friends, please hold me and keep me warm at night...”Bulletproof Monk” is just ridiculously bad.  By bad, I mean atrocious.  By atrocious, I mean fucking shitty shit-shit.  By fucking shitty shit-shit, I mean Hard Vice.

Chow is playing this Tibetan monk that has to protect this scroll that apparently could destroy the world if it falls in the wrong hands...or something.  Every 60 years, the holder of the scroll is supposed to hand off the damned thing to a new, since the world only has like six billion people, Chow’s character is in NEW YORK CITY on the 60th year and decides to recruit a young street thief that has little-to-no martial arts experience, is nice to homeless guys and looks almost exactly like Stifler from “American Pie” to take over the scroll duties.

Oh, wait...that IS Stifler from “American Pie”, Seann William Scott!  I think Scott is hilarious, and he is the classic “Do one thing and do it well” actor when he is cast as the dumb frat guy sidekick that has defined his early career.  Cast here as an action hero, the producers of “Bulletproof Monk” ought to be shot.  While their chemistry is somewhat intriguing, this film is wrought with issues that can only be handled by simply not making a film of this type ever again.  Why do American filmmakers think that Chow is a martial artist?  He only made a few films like that in his early career...since then, he has defined the modern action hero with his famous two-fisted gunplay films with John Woo and other Asian directors over the last 15 years in front of his American film debut “The Replacement Killers.”  Watching Chow throw punches and kicks in “Bulletproof Monk” (with the considerable help of stunt doubles, wires and the like), I just felt bad for him, and watching Scott do likewise was almost as embarrassing.  Even a gratuitous scene where Chow’s character catches two handguns and spins around in slow-motion was offensive; lifted from the so-so “Killers” film, it doesn’t make any sense in a film about a freakin’ monk.

The film is even rated PG-13, which is almost always a no-no when it comes to my favorite action star.  This worked fine in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, but it makes the action scenes in “Bulletproof Monk” come off as soft, something Chow Yun-Fat definitely is not.  Even worse is that the film never quite defines for me why this monk or anyone that holds the scroll is really “bulletproof.”  Oh, and how do the bad guys led by a Nazi (Karel Roden) and his granddaughter (Victoria Smurfit...insert joke here) keep finding Chow and Scott’s characters?  New York City--at least, from the 30 times I have come to visit--is a pretty fucking big place, yet every time the twosome walk outside, the bad guys are standing around waiting with machine guns.  Do they have Monkdar or something?  And, why is Chow in New York in the first place?  The world has hundreds of cities, but it is never relayed to the audience why the action takes place in the Big Apple.

Bad on almost all levels.  Jamie King is not bad looking as the love interest, and that bulletproof Escalade that shows up near the end is pretty sweet.  Otherwise, this blows.

Rating:  Hard Vice


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09