THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"BULLETPROOF MONK"

Bulletproof Monk actually begins in the 1940ís. A Tibetan monk (Chow Yun-Fat) has just fulfilled a prophecy; having completed three crucial tasks, the so-called Monk With No Name has proven himself able to be the next guardian of a magic scroll. His master informs him that whoever reads the scroll in its entirety will harness magic powers enabling him (or her) to rule the world. Monk accepts responsibility for protecting the scroll with great seriousness and pride. Mere seconds after he takes possession of it, Monkís master is shot and killed by Nazis. Their leader is Struker (Karel Roden), who knows of the scrollís power and wants it for himself. Struker tries to kill Monk, but he gets away, scroll in hand.

Cut to a modern-day city (never named, but pretty obviously somewhere in Canada). Monk is in hiding from the big bad Nazis, even to this day. He has not aged so much as a second, and he is impervious to bullets. (The scroll protects those who protect it, or so the explanation goes.) Monk soon meets Kar (Seann William Scott) a young pickpocket who has learned martial arts by watching the Kung Fu flicks at the Chinese movie theater where he works. Monk has been guarding the scroll for nearly sixty years and realizes it is time to find a successor. Despite Karís rebellious nature, Monk thinks he might be the logical choice.

Meanwhile, Struker and his minions search for Monk. Every time they find him, he manages to give them the slip Ė or at least deliver some enough butt kicking to escape. Kar finds himself drawn into the adventure, as does Jade (Jamie King), a feisty young woman with some martial arts skills of her own. Kar previously swiped her necklace, so she follows him around trying to get it back, then pitches in to help when the chips are down. She also has some reasons of her own why she wants to see the Nazis foiled. Eventually, Struker makes his most drastic strike, and itís naturally up to the heroic threesome to keep the scroll out of his clutches.

This is going to be a short review, because Bulletproof Monk doesnít require a complicated critical analysis. I have always been a fan of Chow Yun-Fat, who is quite likable here. He appears to be having fun with the movie, and he gives Seann William Scott the chance to deliver some really funny double takes and reaction shots. They are definitely amusing on screen together. The action scenes are generally inventive, especially the one in which Monk swings from the blades of a flying helicopter as though he were on a set of uneven bars in a gymnastics competition. There are some fun moments to be had here.

Although I liked elements of the movie, I canít quite recommend it. Most movies that get a thumbs-down from me contain one or two (or even more) elements that make me actively dislike them. Bulletproof Monk, in contrast, doesnít have anything majorly wrong with it. Itís pleasant and amiable enough, to be sure. Instead, it has a combination of little things that Ė when added together Ė had the cumulative effect of dulling my enjoyment to the point that I was just ambivalent about it. The bad guy and his motives could have used a little more development, some of the special effects are a tad cheesy, the romance between Karr and Jade seems a bit forced, you can sometimes see that Chow Yun-Fat's stunt double is doing the fighting, the supposedly dead bad guy re-emerges for one of those predictable ďlast grabĒ things. None of these flaws bothered me greatly, but I felt that Bulletproof Monk would have been a better movie with a little tweaking. All the elements are there for a good martial arts pic, but they got a little lazy in a few areas and it cost them.

So in the end, Iím mixed on the film. Didnít love it, didnít hate it. Glad I saw it once, but wouldnít sit through it again. Itís just ďall right.Ē And that, my friends, is really all there is to say about this one.

( 1/2 out of four)


Bulletproof Monk is rated PG-13 for martial arts violence, some sexuality, and language. The running time is 1 hour and 43 minutes.

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