Title: Bulletproof Monk
Director: Paul Hunter
Writer: Ethan Reiff / Cyrus Voris
Release Date: 18th April 2003 (UK)
Chow Yun-Fat - The Monk with no name
Seann William Scott - Kar
Jaime King - Jade / Bad Girl
Karel Roden - Strucker
Victoria Smurfit - Nina
The film starts in 1943, during the second world war. Chow Yun Fat plays the eponymous hero (forthwith referred to as the monk), a Tibetan monk entrusted with the protection of a scroll that holds the power of eternal youth and control of the world. The protector of the scroll is chosen by performing three phrophecies and gains some pretty nifty powers including no aging for 60 years and becoming seemingly bulletproof. Much like in Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark, the Nazis are after this mystical artifact and Strucker, the head of the division, shoots the monk in an attempt to get it, who falls off a cliff with the scroll.
Flash forward 60 years to modern day San Francisco. The monk has been pursued his whole life and is beginning to look for a new protector of the scroll - he happens upon Kar, a street thief who lives in the Golden Palace, a Chinese cinema owned by an old Japanese man. The two help a young girl escape from an oncoming underground train, and the monk sees something in Kar and decides after a while that Kar may be destined to become the next protector of the scroll. After a few scrapes the two team up with Jade, a street girl (and by that I don't mean prostitute) and save the scroll from the hands of Nina, a strange woman who is head of a Human Rights organization (sorry about the vagueness of all this, but I'm trying not to include any spoilers).
Starring Chow Yun-Fat and with John Woo as executive producer, you might legitimately expect Bulletroof Monk to include a lot of fight scenes and wire work. If so, you will probably not be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you're looking for an engrossing, believable story and terrific acting, you should probably look elsewhere. Chow Yun-Fat, while a very capable actor, just doesn't sound comfortable speaking English - this is the first time I've heard him speak outside his native tongue (actually, as a side note, neither he nor Michelle Yeoh spoke Mandarin before Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and apparently both have atrocious accents in that movie) and it just didn't work for me. Seann William Scott is merely OK (this is a step up for him) and Victoria Smurfit overplays her part quite atrociously at times. Best not to mention the side character called Mista Funktastic.
Having said this, the wire work is reasonably well done and even Seann William Scott is quite good in the fight scenes. The movie is certainly enjoyable in a 'don't engage your brain' type way and Jaime King is undeniable eye candy. Just don't see it for the plot which makes little or no sense (there's a bit with water in pipes that seems important, but it wasn't clear what was going on).
Brilliant title though.
the Tibetan imdb.com