Reviews

Bulletproof Monk

3

Skipping on treetops, brushing away blows and ahhhhya!-ing with the best of 'em, Chow Yun-Fat looked every inch the martial-arts master in 2000's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Which meant many forgot the Hong Kong superstar was no chop-socky champion. He was (and is) a gun-totin' Action Star. He learnt Far Eastern fisticuffs specifically to play Crouching Tiger's Li Mu Bai, then stretched his underused acting muscles as the repressed, obsessed warrior. It was a staggering achievement.

Keen to utilise his newly acquired limb-pulping power, Yun-Fat cuts up rough again in this amiable action comedy, though his acting prowess is lost in his attempts to wrestle with the English language. Not that it matters - Bulletproof Monk ain't exactly demanding.

After proving his worth in a rope-bridge-over-canyon set battle with his Master, Yun-Fat's Monk With No Name is entrusted with - dum-dum-daaah! - the Scroll Of The Ultimate. Read aloud, it gives its bearer the power to rule the world, so understandably some visiting Nazis (it is 1943, after all) are quite keen on getting their hands on it. Leading Aryan nutcase Struker (Karel Roden) shoots our kid and sends him tumbling off a cliff, but thescroll has healing qualities and, 60 years later, the physically unchanged, USA-dwelling monk is still clinging onto it as he's chased around. Then he bumps into Kar (Seann William Scott), a smart-mouthed pickpocket, who could just prove to be the scroll's next protector - if he fulfils the Three Prophecies. And so the stage is set for some master-pupil, "wax on, wax off"-style training, lots of mystical homilies and spectacular fights.

Sound simple? It is. A bit stupid? Of course. But there are plenty of pleasures in this bargain-basement Matrix/Golden Child hybridising caper. Most important is a healthy sense of its own idiocy. No one is taking anything too seriously here. The fight scenes are gleeful because they bugger (never mind beggar) belief, with extensive wirework and computer trickery.

Yun-Fat may struggle to speak the lingo, but he possesses a charm which amply compensates. There's even a homage to his established screen persona, Monk taking a two-gun stance and blasting weapons from his assailants' hands. This is Terminator 2 violence: shoot but never kill.

William Scott, meanwhile, proves robust in a confrontation with a Cockernee criminal called (oh dear) Mr Funktastic. His moves are good - so good that he wins the love interest of Funktastic's "bird" Jade (the lovely Jaime King).

The charm does wear awfully thin in the final half-hour - the dialogue slumps, the plot goes straight to video - but this is still perfect for a thought-free Friday night. So why not take Yun-Fat's advice and go with it: "All you have to do is believe..."

Verdict:

Chow Yun-Fat's finest English-language outing yet. That's not saying much but there's fun to be had in the Nazi-bashing adventure, and Seann William Scott makes an offbeat action hero.

Film Details

  • 12A
  • UK Theatrical Release Date: April 18th 2003