- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2003

From its title, you might guess that "Bulletproof Monk" is a low-budget, choppily edited Asian import featuring an array of bare-fisted brawling.
Instead, "Monk" is yet another culture-clash buddy flick, this time starring Chow Yun-Fat and "American Pie" knucklehead Seann William Scott as the mandatory ugly American.
And, oh yes, it's choppily edited and has an array of bare-fisted brawling.
Quick-paced and dull-witted, this action-comedy's idea of Eastern mysticism is solving the riddle of why hot dogs are sold in packs of 10 while the buns come eight per package.
Whoa.
The aerial wonders that elevated 2000's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" beyond its genre roots are lifted for many of the fight sequences in "Monk." Mr. Chow appears more comfortable with the English language here, but such linguistic progress hardly makes up for the nonsensical goings-on.
Adapted from a Flypaper Press comic-book series, "Monk" plays out like the long-lost cousin of 1986's "Big Trouble in Little China," another frothy lark that matched a rugged American type against high-flying characters from the East.
Mr. Chow stars as the Monk With No Name, perhaps a nod to a certain spaghetti-Western star of yore. In a flashback to Tibet circa 1943, we see the nameless monk being chosen as the protector of a sacred scroll with the power to rule mankind, or something fateful like that.
"Monk" doesn't sweat the small stuff.
Before he takes hold of the scroll, a team of Nazi soldiers attacks his peaceful temple, killing everyone but him. He avenges his brothers by wiping out the whole battalion, except for the Nazi commander (Karel Roden) leading the charge.
Sixty years later in a nameless American city, the Monk is alive, well and still protecting that scroll that grants its protector immortality, but the prophecies tell him a new protector is to be found.
The Monk stumbles upon the chosen one, a common pickpocket named Kar (Mr. Scott) who learned his fighting moves from imitating classic martial-arts movies. The two bicker right from the start, as the movie law of odd couples demands.
The surviving Nazi commander, now an enfeebled old man, is still on the Monk's trail, along with his granddaughter, an icy blonde (Victoria Smurfit, oozing Teutonic rage) who isn't too shabby in the fighting department, either.
Kar slowly comes to trust the Monk, and the two team with a street-thug-slash-debutante named Bad Girl (model Jaime King, who breaks down her dialogue into less intimidating snippets) to repel the Nazis.
"Monk" hurls so many action set pieces our way it's not surprising a few of them grab us. Mr. Chow fights off an exasperated Kar while holding a full bowl of cereal steady in his free hand.
Later, our indefatigable Monk commandeers a helicopter in midflight, an eye-popping stunt captured by director Paul Hunter, the umpteenth music-video director to graduate to theatrical features.
Mr. Scott, his eyes slightly crossed under those downward-streaking eyebrows, proved electric as Stifler in the "American Pie" features. He's that irrepressible frat boy who somehow curries favor no matter how grating his manner.
Here he is given so little to do that his signature expression, an amused smirk suitable for any occasion, loses its sting by the halfway mark. Still, his cocksure appeal emerges more or less intact.
The pairing of Mr. Scott and Mr. Chow isn't inspired, and the actors aren't afforded much support from the dead-on-arrival script. Still, the pair gamely slog through the sodden material.
Even by its own low standards, "Bulletproof Monk" fails to sustain our attention, particularly during a portentous epilogue meant to set future adventures in motion.
Bulletproof though this Monk is, he is not, I fear, sequelproof.

**
TITLE: "Bulletproof Monk"
RATING: PG-13 (comic-book-style violence, coarse language)
CREDITS: Directed by Paul Hunter, written by Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris
RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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