Bulletproof Monk is a 2003 American superhero comedy film directed by Paul Hunter in his directorial debut, and starring Chow Yun-fat, Seann William Scott, and Jaime King. The film is loosely based on the comic book written by Brett Lewis with art by Michael Avon Oeming. The film was shot in Toronto and Hamilton, Canada, and other locations that resemble New York City.
|Directed by||Paul Hunter|
|Written by||Ethan Reiff|
|Edited by||Robert K. Lambert|
|Music by||Éric Serra|
|Distributed by||MGM Distribution Co.|
|Box office||$37.7 million|
In Tibet, 1943, a Tibetan monk is informed by his master that he has fulfilled a series of prophecies that mark him as his successor. The monk, forgoing his name, is entrusted with guarding a scroll his master protected, that contains knowledge that will make its reader powerful, young, and immune to injury. Granted its powers, the monk learns he will need to find his own successor to pass on the scroll in his future. Shortly after he receives the scroll, he is forced to flee when German soldiers, led by their officer Strucker, attack the monk's temple and kill his master. Strucker, who sought the scroll for his own desires, vows to track down the monk.
Sixty years later, in 2003, the nameless Monk witnesses a young pickpocket named Kar, fleeing from police after he was caught robbing one of their officers, along with members of a local gang who do not like him pick-pocketing on their turf. When the pair collide with a young girl and put her into the path of an oncoming train, Kar and Monk rescue her. Shortly after the pair introduce themselves to each other, Kar steals the scroll from Monk and runs away. Monk pursues him, suspecting he may be a suitable successor to him, based on three prophecies his master told him before his death, the first of which Kar has fulfilled. When Kar finds himself fighting against the local gang's leader, he meets a young woman named Jade, whom he falls in love with. The next day, Monk meets with Kar to talk with him, just as Jade approaches them to ask Kar to return her necklace to her, which he had stolen to earn her esteem. The meeting is interrupted when Monk is forced to run from a group of mercenaries seeking him, taking Kar with him.
At an Asian laundromat, Monk reveals that its cellar houses a group of fellow monks who aid him, and decides to show Kar some advanced combat techniques. While training at an abandoned warehouse, the pair are attacked by the mercenaries, who steal the scroll for their employer Nina, the head of the Human Rights Organisation, and Strucker, her grandfather. However, the pair discover the scroll is a fake; Kar learns that the real secret in it was tattooed onto Monk's body. Angered, Nina visits Kar's home to track the pair down, murdering Kar's employer. When Kar learns of this, he proceeds to seek out help from Monk at the laundromat. An ambitious monk betrays the group to Strucker and Nina. While Monk and Kar escape, the mercenaries capture all of the monks and take them to a secret facility beneath the Organisation's headquarters, where they are all tortured; the monk who betrayed them is killed.
Seeking help, Kar and Monk visit Jade at her home, learning that she is the daughter of a currently imprisoned Russian crime lord. Monk realises that this fact and a small tussle between Kar and Jade inside the house, have fulfilled the second prophecy he was told about. At that moment, the group are interrupted by Nina and her mercenaries, who capture Monk and take him back to their base. Jade, having met Nina earlier that day when she was opening an exhibit created by the Organisation, helps Kar infiltrate their headquarters. Both later get separated. Strucker, dressed in his officer's uniform, begins reading the scroll on Monk's body and regains his youth. However, he finds that the scroll's last verse, which Monk reveals he memorised, is missing. Before Strucker can scan Monk's brain for it, Kar arrives and distracts him, allowing Monk to break free. While Jade, having dealt with Nina, works to free the monks, Monk and Kar engage with Strucker and throw him off the headquarters' roof and onto some electric cables.
Believing he has been dealt with, Monk and Kar reunite with the monks and Jade, before the Scroll's contents are transferred to Kar, having fulfilled the third prophecy. Strucker, still alive, attempts to kill Kar, but is killed himself instead by a falling statue. Kar is then surprised to find that Jade has the Scroll's power herself, having survived being shot at by Strucker - like Kar, she also fulfilled the three prophecies, and has the Scroll's content on her body as well. Monk, now aged, meets with Kar and Jade the next day, giving each one half of the final verse, deeming them now inseparable. The pair wish him a good vacation from his duties, before departing to fulfill their new roles.
In May 2000, it was announced MGM had paid high six figures against a potential seven-figure deal to turn the cult comic “Bulletproof Monk” into a live-action film that would star Chow Yun-fat as the title character with John Woo and Terence Chang’s Lion Rock Productions producing. Seann William Scott was cast in November 2001.
The film grossed approximately $23 million in the United States, with a worldwide total of $37 million, less than the production budget of $52 million.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 23% based on 132 reviews. The site's consensus reads: "Venerable action star Chow Yun-Fat is the only saving grace in this silly action flick that more often than not resembles a commercial in style." On Metacritic it has a score of 40% based on reviews from 29 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade B on scale of A to F.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it 2 out of 4, and wrote: "The fight scenes in Bulletproof Monk are not as inventive as some I've seen (although the opening fight on a rope bridge is so well done that it raises expectations it cannot fulfill)." Robert Koehler of Variety wrote: "adults will likely object to the innumerable plot question marks coming off the screen like so many kung-fu kicks to the head." Koehler compares the film to Hong Kong action movies, noting that the fights are relatively tame, but the visual effects are generally excellent. Jamie Russell at the BBC gave it 3/5 and called it "Truly naff, but endearingly silly."
David Edelstein of Slate contended that Bulletproof Monk was "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for the American Pie audience"; panning its poor special effects and cinematography (the former he compared to an "afternoon Japanese kiddie series"), and concluded that "they made a ton of junky movies in Hong Kong, but those were dazzlingly fluid and high-flying junky movies. This American retread has the same sort of hack plot but none of the bravura. It makes them look like monkeys, and not bulletproof ones." Bill Stamets of the Chicago Reader panned Bulletproof Monk for having "routine" fight scenes and juvenile humor, and that "the film plays off Chow's imperturbable persona, but the Tibetan philosophy boils down to the paradox of hot dogs coming ten to a package while buns are sold in sets of eight."
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