“Bulletproof Monk” is another entry in the long line of comics-based movies. The problem with “Monk” is that it’s like a Chinese dinner: You take one thing from column A, another from column B and yet another from column C to make a meal (or in this case, a movie.)
“Bulletproof Monk” essentially contains bits and pieces of other movies and isn’t original at all.
It tells the story of a nameless monk (Chow Yun-Fat) who is given the sacred duty of protecting the Scroll of the Ultimate. When read aloud, the Scroll has the power to give the reader god-like qualities. The movie begins in the 1940s, with the monk given the task of protecting the Scroll. In come Nazis who want the Scroll for themselves.
The movie shows the monk appearing to die, but as my father loved to say, “He’s the head player. He can’t die.” We fast forward to the present and meet a pickpocket named Kar (Seann William Scott)—a thief with a heart of gold.
Kar “meets” the monk in a subway, where Kar picks his pocket of the Scroll. The story unfolds from there. There’s a lot of kung fu action and pseudo-philosophy. For example, the monk tells Kar that when Kar can explain why hot dogs come 10 to a pack and buns come eight to a pack, then Kar will have enlightenment. If that is the case, Jerry Seinfeld is the Dalai Lama.
Throw in a love interest, the return of the Nazis, lots of chase scenes and a character called Mr. Funktastic who speaks of himself in the third person, and you have Hollywood’s version of “Bulletproof Monk.”
“Monk” is a comic-book movie, but it is a bad comic-book movie. It pales in comparison to last year’s “Spider-Man” or Tim Burton’s “Batman.” In fact, “Daredevil” looks good compared to it.
Looking at the story, one wonders: Why do the ruling elite who oversee the Scroll of the Ultimate allow the Scroll to exist? Is it not just a bomb waiting to go off? Will there not always be somebody after its powers? Why not just destroy it and save mankind from its possible horrors? We are never told why the Scroll exists in the first place or what would happen if it were simply destroyed.
The only reason for it to exist is to have this movie, which will likely spawn a sequel called “Laserproof Monk: The Enlightenment Strikes Back,” or something equally ludicrous. And that means more Seinfeld-like Zen riddles.
I can see it now: When you can explain why Hollywood makes terrible movies with hackneyed clichés for scripts, then you will have perfect enlightenment … and I will not have to review so many bad movies.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Burgaw Baptist Church in Burgaw, N.C.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, language and some sexual content
Director: Paul Hunter
Writers: Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris
Cast: Monk With No Name: Chow Yun-Fat; Kar: Seann William Scott; Jade/Bad Girl: Jamie King; Strucker: Karel Roden.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.