Bulletproof Monk

Bulletproof Monk (2003)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Chow Yun Fat
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Alternate Ending, Photo Gallery

Chow Yun Fat’s latest movie is an interesting mix of classic FantAsia elements and modern urban cinema. I was very reluctant when it came to the movie but given the leading man’s stature, I decided to give the DVD a spin, which has been released by MGM as a Special Edition.

The movie tells the story of a Tibetan monk who is bound to protect a sacred scroll. The scroll gives its protector eternal youth and powers beyond the ordinary. For 60 years, the Monk has protected the scroll from the grip of evil and greed, and he is constantly keeping his eyes open for the fulfillment of a prophecy that would identify the next protector to take his place. From Tibet he moved to modern day New York City where he meets the small-time thug Kar (Sean William Scott). Though being the most unlikely of all persons, Kar seems to fulfill the prophecy one step at a time, and the Monk decides to teach the young man in his ways. But that’s easier said than done. Taming a rebellious, raving modern-day kid with no ethics and as much smarts as a peanut isn’t exactly what his order has prepared the Monk for. And yet, he tries…

"Bulletproof Monk" is a mixed bag, ultimately. The story – as contrived as it may seem – actually works in large parts and the cultural clash makes for many funny and exciting moments. However, the film is always undecided whether it wants to be a martial arts film, a John Woo action flick, a buddy or movie or just a teenage comedy. This lack of focus and direction sadly bogs down the film, creating awkward moments that shouldn’t have been there. If it weren’t for Chow Yun Fat’s steady hand and rooted acting, the movie would probably have slid downhill faster than a subway train.

One of the major problems also lie in the film’s editing, which his overly frantic and suffers from the "Daredevil" syndrome. Like that movie, the filmmakers have used dizzying split-second edits to cache the actors’ Kung Fu weaknesses. While Sean William Scott or Jaimie King may have received some martial arts training, it is glaringly obvious that it is not anywhere near to Fat’s abilities or those of the martial artists the movie tries to mimic.

MGM is presenting "Bulletproof Monk" in an <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> transfer on this DVD. The transfer is pristine without defects or blemishes and a very high level of definition. Colors are balanced with strong hues and faithful skin tones. Black levels are strong, creating deep, solid shadows where applicable, never losing detail, though, and never breaking up. No edge-enhancement is evident and the compression is also without flaws.

The audio on the disc comes as a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> mix that is very aggressive and directional. Surround usage is good and very active, creating a wide sound field that makes good use of the technical capabilities of the format. Stereo tracks in French and Spanish are also supplied.

The DVD comes with a number of supplements, such as an engaging <$commentary,commentary track> featuring the director and the movie’s producers. A second <$commentary,commentary track> featuring the writers is also included adding further depth and information to the title.

A number of featurettes can also be found on the DVD, mostly covering the production of the movie. With interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, these are interesting featurettes, offering quite a bit of insight into the production of the movie.

A selection of Deleted Scenes and an Alternate Ending are also included on the disc. In each case it is just all too obvious why they were removed form the final film as they are simply stretching the plot without adding anything of substance.

The DVD is rounded out by a photo gallery.

"Bulletproof Monk" isn’t a bad film, but it’s not great either. It’s fun to watch and then forget. It will keep you entertained for its running length but it won’t be a movie for repeat viewing, so unless you are a Chow Yun Fat fan, a rental may be in order to check out if this film is your bag.