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MGM Studios DVD presents
Bulletproof Monk (2003)

"An enlightened man would offer a weary traveler a bed for the night, and invite him to share a civilized conversation over a bowl of Cocoa Puffs."
- Monk (Chow Yun Fat)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: February 05, 2004

Stars: Chow Yun Fat, Sean William Scott
Other Stars: James King
Director: Paul Hunter

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, language, sexual situations
Run Time: 01h:42m:12s
Release Date: September 09, 2003
UPC: 027616888396
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- D+B-C+ C+

DVD Review

Anyone who is a fan of Hong Kong cinema will understand the anticipation that an action film featuring Chow Yun Fat brings. The man is easily one of the most charismatic and gifted action stars working today, and it is my opinion that several of his films made overseas showcase some of the best action available anywhere. Sadly, his transition into an American superstar has been stalled, not because of his abilities, but rather the inability to find him a director and script worthy of his talents. I once again had high hopes for Bulletproof Monk; that sound of escaping air that you hear are my expectations deflating.

The film is based on a comic book, unread by me and, by the looks of it, millions of others, in which a monk with no name protects an ancient scroll that will give its possessor the power to control the world. At the start of the film we see The Monk (Yun Fat) taking ownership of it and thus guarding it for eternity. His temple is attacked by Nazis (these guys again?!) and after defending everyone but his mentor, our hero jumps off of cliff in an effort to get away. He surfaces again many years later in present day New York and charges Kar (William Scott) to be the next protector of the scroll.

This of course brings forth the hated Nazis again as they continue their quest to obtain the scroll at any length. But this time The Monk will have help in the form of Kar, and the Nazis don't stand a chance—would you expect it any other way? Through training and other various pointless exercises, Kar may come to be enlightened and believe that anything is possible. Something that is not possible? The chances that this may be a fine motion picture.

For most of its running length, Bulletproof Monk attempts to deliver on promises made at the start of the picture. An early fight on a rope bridge amidst impeccable scenery is thrilling and for about five minutes, I was involved in the film. Add to this a sequence featuring Kar and a street thug named (I kid you not) Mr. Fantastik (Patrick Hagarty) battling in an underground hideout, which is kinetic and has energy to spare. But eventually, when the fight is over, I realized that what I had just seen had no real effect on the remainder of the film; it was there simple to pad the running length and flesh out holes in a script with problems so big a semi could drive through them.

The film was directed by Paul Hunter, a music video veteran who has brought the belief that style trumps substance any day of the week, and at times his thinking helps propel the film towards something better. At other moments his direction seems a tad out of line, especially in scenes that have a more serious tilt. Hunter can not be blamed for everything though, as the script includes so many ridiculous passages of dialogue that it is hard to contain any type of laughter. When The Monk begins to offer up wisdom, he does so by asking why there are ten buns in a package of hot dog buns when the hot dogs come in packaged in eight. Not exactly deep metaphorical thinking.

The stars do their best to sidestep around the mess, as Sean William Scott plays the same character he always does but he, as I have said before, is very good at it. At least he seems to be having a lot of fun in his first action film.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in a very nice 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image, Bulletproof Monk represents both the best, and unfortunately the worst that DVD has to offer. The image that appears at the start of the film is wonderful, with rich colors and the sort of depth and detail that make any transfer great. When the action shifts to New York, the image loses that terrific depth and bright colors and it becomes a very average effort. Colors become bleached out in favor of more subdued tones and the print begins to show some slight grain in the darker scenes.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is, as one would expect, kinetic, but the track is not as dynamic as I had hoped. The mix does offer plenty of directionality to be sure as bullets and other effects bounce around the room but it becomes clear at one point that this is all for show. The mix is over-aggressive, and that is a bad thing. Dialogue is fine with no dropouts, while the .1 LFE track offers nice sustained bass throughout.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
2 Documentaries
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by director Paul Hunter, roducers Charles Roven and Douglas Segal
Writers Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: Billed as a "special edition," the disc is far from being loaded with material, and what is here is rather uninteresting. There are two commentary tracks, one by Hunter and producers Charles Roven and Douglas Segal; the other is hosted by writers Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris. The first track is largely devoted to what is happening on screen while failing to offer anything worthwhile, even though the trio talk as if they are divulging great secrets.

The second track by the writers is a bit more in-depth as they discuss alternate casting as well as how the film changed with the inclusion of each actor. The pair also cover influences and their original plans for the film.

A pair of featurettes are available that cover everything you would ever want to know about Bulletproof Monk, and even some things you probably didn't. The first is The Tao of The Monk and it is broken down into five subsections dealing with various areas of production. There is nothing groundbreaking to be found here, aside from one piece that focuses on the special effects used in the film. The other featurette is entitled The Monk Unrobed and it represents the more basic behind-the-scenes featurette common to most special editions.

Five deleted scenes and an alternate ending are offered with optional commentary by editor Robert Lambart and, for the most part, each of these scenes were rightfully excised as they add little to the betterment of the film. The theatrical trailer, a video game preview, and a photo gallery round out the extra features.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Bulletproof Monk represents a chance for an American director to give Chow Yun Fat a film that is as solid as those that made him an international star. Paul Hunter failed, something that fans of Fat's have grown accustom to.


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