Plot: What’s it about?
For six decades, an ancient scroll has been protected by an unknown monk, a man who has powers like few others. He has enhanced speed, strength, and senses, not to mention a mastery over the basic laws of physics. This enables him to keep the scroll safe from even the most skilled enemies. Which is good news, since the ancient scroll has some powers of its own, powers it could grant to whomever has possession. If the scroll should fall into the hands of someone with evil intentions, it could mean doom for the world. The scroll offers the key to endless power, the kind of power someone could use to take control of the world and perhaps even cause its demise, if the scroll were abused. But this monk has kept it safe all these years and now, he must find a suitable replacement. As he travels through San Francisco, the monk almost finds himself captured, but a street punk named Kar (Seann William Scott) saves him at the last second. The two soon strike up a friendship and the monk reveals a little about his magical past. At the same time, an evil kung fu master named Strucker (Karel Roden) is seeking out the scroll and in truth, he is perhaps the most dangerous threat to the artifact to date. Can the monk and his new friend manage to keep it safe, or will the end of the monk’s tenure signal the end of the scroll’s safety?
I love fantasy cinema, all the magic and chaos can provide some true entertainment, if the material is handled well. If you want to see how not to handle a comic book style fantasy film, then look no further than Bulletproof Monk. Yes, it has moments of wonder and fun, but not enough to balance out the poor elements to be seen. The lead role is given to Chow Yun Fat, a master action star with talent burn, but the producers make the mistake of teaming him up with bozo teen stars Seann William Scott and Jamie King. I know the movies tend to kneel before the teens these days, but come on, this is supposed to be an action movie. And sorry, but both Scott and King come off as weak and ineffective in the action sequences. Scott needs to stick to airhead jocks and King needs to look into low rent horror, where all she needs to do is remove her clothes to succeed. The action is low end here too and not just because of the perky teen idols present, but because of the poor wirework and special effects. A little wirework can go a long way, but it is overdone here and really detracts from the experience. The terrible computer visuals and other special effects don’t help either, so there’s not much to praise here. I’d recommend just about any other martial arts fantasy film over this one, but if you have to see it, just give it a rental.
In Asia, he is one of the biggest stars of cinema, but here in the United States, Chow Yun Fat is just another action star. At least that is how American filmmakers have treated him, since he has been cast in films that don’t make good use of his skills. In his Asian films, he was able to elevate even the lowest end productions. His mastery of action was obvious and well known, but his range as an actor didn’t begin & end in that genre. No, he was gifted in all areas of cinema, from the most dramatic roles to the silliest of comic characters. This is because he is a great actor of course, but also because he has screen presence and charisma to burn. His infectious passion often made those bad movies a little better, which is a testament to his presence. But in his American films, you can tell he is either bored or displeased, as he isn’t the same performer. Its isn’t age either, as he was excellent in the recent Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Maybe someday, some American filmmakers will present him with a movie that deserves his immense talents.
Video: How does it look?
Bulletproof Monk is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This transfer has its up and downs, but is a marked improvement over the standard DVD. As often happens, the darker scenes show little improvement, so detail isn’t as high and grain is evident. In those instances, the visuals look more than standard than high def, but when the visuals look good, they look damn good. Most of the movie has a sharp, clear presence that offers a lot of refined detail to soak in. Maybe not as dazzling as some of the elite high definition transfers out there, but fans should be pleased. As this movie was released in 2003, I can’t overlook the frequent grain and debris, which can be a distraction at times. So while this transfer has moments of excellence, it also has moments of disappointment, leaving us with a decent, but inconsistent presentation.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is an action movie, so the DTS HD soundtrack has a lot of potential to make use of and thankfully, it does just that. The fight sequences sound terrific, with deep impact moments and great directional presence, putting you right in the middle of it all. When the action moves more toward guns and explosions, the power kicks up a notch and the surrounds open up wide. The soundtrack is loud and effective, though too loud at times, so some volume management might be needed. The more subdued scenes also sound fine, while dialogue is clean and offers no problems whatsoever. This disc also includes Spanish and French language tracks, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The standard DVD was loaded with supplements, but this Blu-ray version has none.