dir: Paul Hunter
[img_assist|nid=1007|title=Chow may be a god, but even he cannot save this heap of shit. Even when glowing blue.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=399|height=318]
People have different definitions of what a B movie is. People have different definitions of what a decent Friday night is as well, but that's another story. I've always known what a B movie is, but I had difficulty articulating it clearly. The IMDB defines the B Movie thusly:
"a low-budget, second tier movie, frequently the 2nd movie in a double-feature billing. B-films were cheaper for studios because they did not involve the most highly paid actors or costly sets, and were popular with theatre owners because they were less expensive to bring into their theatres while still able to draw revenue"
But the phrase 'B movie' has altogether different connotations for me as well. B movies can be cool, there's the odd B movie cult classic out there, but generally I like to think of generic B movies as being, as we used to say at the orphanage in between coughing up blood from consumption and fighting over rat meat, "shitehouse". As most films are mediocre at best, and downright awful at worst, you have to wonder how it's possible to have an entire other stratum of film which is worse than the vast majority of product that's out there simply by budget and definition.
Surely budget isn't the only decider. There must be some other dark arts at work. Personally, I think that there are certain actors and stories that can, regardless of and often in spite of the budget, be held up as the paragon, the quintessence, the nadir of B movies.
Bulletproof Monk is a stupid film with a laughable plot, bad acting, an overdose of cliche and a lack of innovation or original thought so profound that you'll think that you've been transported back in time
to the 80s. Remember the days of The Last Dragon, Double Dragon, anything with Dragon or Ninja in the title or with bad actors and worse fighting? This film remembers the love we have for those days, and brings it all back up in a manner reminiscent of watching a cat weakly throwing up its cookies all over your favourite rug. Which, in the words of The Dude from The Big Lebowski "Really tied the room together, man."
As well as that, it has mediocre fight choreography, bad digital effects and a supposed buddy picture co-lead who actually has to aim lower than his previous achievements in the American Pie films to achieve this staggering level of mediocrity. Seann William Scott is a credit to all those who work hard and get to leave group homes for people with Down's syndrome and other intellectual disabilities, and I'm proud of him for being able to work outside of sheltered workshops, but really, should he be in films? There are so many
deserving reality television contestants that will clearly do anything for fame. Aren't they more deserving, Hollywood?
Also, the love interest is played by someone who subscribes to the idea that rich girls are bored with their lives and need to taunt English scumbags living in subways who call themselves Mr Funktastic with their virginity. Wearing lots of panda-eye make up also gives you the right to call yourself 'Bad Girl'. I swear to god bits of this film made me want to beat up kittens and puppies. The only person that could watch her acting and think she and her stunt double are "bad" girls is probably Avril Lavigne. I just realised that if anyone reads this review in two years time, they'll be thinking "Who?" Which will be as it is meant to be, I guess.
As far as I can tell, the previous qualifications of the actress that plays Bad Girl is that she is a former model and drug addict. Man, getting into movies is getting easier every day.
Chow Yun Fat, officially one of the Greatest Men Alive, still puts his heart and gut into the performance, as is his obligation as one of the hardest-working actors alive. It still can't save the film, charismatic as he is. He is saddled with poor dialogue, a strange haircut and a mercurial way of speaking English that provides the
film's only entertainment.
Other than that the film is a dead loss. Chow plays the Monk With No Name (c) whose task it has been to protect the Scroll of the Ultimate for 60 years from a mad Nazi, who would use the Scroll to turn the world into a living hell for anyone who's not Aryan.
The Nazi has a grand daughter (played by a woman with the best name ever, Victoria Smurfit), Nina, who is an Aryan uberfrau who runs a Human Rights organisation (!) as a front for her grandfather's nefarious activities. I'm not making that up.
Chow ends up in what I'm guessing is New York and bumps into a pickpocket who lifts the scroll from him. The pickpocket is a congenital idiot who has learnt martial arts from watching kung fu films, but as Chow keeps repeating, he has "potential". People chase Chow, Chow chases various people, squirrels, bad girls, wears natty leather clothes and basically acts as if it's 20 years ago and he's still working for scale in your average Hong Kong slapstick comedy. Try as it might the film can't completely obscure the man's natural
The Monk With No Name (c) is also, after sixty years of, I don't know, community service, looking for the next guy to hand the scroll off to and the powers that go with it. Who could that person be? At the very least, all the omens of the Prophecy (c) point to Kar the pickpocket. Thus Chow must train him. There's no "wax on wax off" type magic, there is just a sequence where Chow keeps saying "It is not about tiddlywinks, it is about kumquats" whilst showing up his young student. It's a wonderful, touching moment. Later on you realise that you've actually seen it before. Various dialogue that goes along with that scene sounded kind of familiar until I realised that it was ripping off the first Matrix movie.
Now I'm not going to indulge in a rampant act of lunacy so as to claim that somehow the Matrix had much of anything that was original in it. It is still a casserole of plenty of people's ideas and partial plotlines from a dozen films, books and manga/anime. However, when the creative abilities of the dunderheads I shall generously refer to as scriptwriters feel compelled to rip off the rip off artists, you know that they are trading in a barren wasteland of inspiration. If the comic book that Mulletproof Punk is based on is this good then I am amazed the film ever got made. If there's a sequel (which I doubt considering the poor box office of this film), I'll eat my own leg, or someone else's. Although it would be perfect as a Stephen J Cannell television series. Starring Lorenzo Lamas as the outlaw hunting outlaws.
As I"ve said previously and recently, most films fuck up their own endings. People just get one "great" idea and pitch it to a studio in one of those situations where they have 20 seconds to wow an executive: "Tibetan monks, the guy from Dude, Where's My Car? And a catfight between a teenage girl and an Aryan poster child. And Nazis! Everyone hates Nazis! Think Matrix crossed with Raiders of the Lost Ark crossed with Karate Kid crossed with the dialogue from an episode of Charmed. We can't lose"
Then the people have to actually make a film around that crap. There's no obvious ending there (except for the one that was obvious to me right from the start; if the scroll is so dangerous, then just read the fucking thing already, no mess no fuss no evil 90 year old Nazis coming to get you).
Instead we get an evil underground Nazi lair (underneath the Human Rights exhibition) where the evil Nazi puts these monks in these machines that do nothing. Nothing at all. He then has a plan to put the Monk With no Name(c); into one of these torture machines that can also read people's minds. When Chow inevitably falls into the clutches of the Nazi, who still wears a SS uniform (devoid of swastikas, naturally), the Nazi puts him into this machine. Then, things get a bit confusing for me. As far as I can tell, as far as the editing went, he then releases Chow before putting Chow back into the machine, he then releases Chow again without using the machine so he can pound on him with his rejuvenated strength. Huh?
Either that was poorly edited, or the people making the film didn't know themselves what was going on. Maybe something was excised in order to get a lower classification, but I'd rather just give the "film" maker the benefit of the doubt and just claim outright that everyone involved in the making of this film (excluding Chow, of course, and maybe Mako, picking up a welfare cheque in a throw away role) is stupid. Deeply deeply stupid.
There is a running piece of philosophy going through this film. Chow asks the Kar character the supreme question in the Buddhist quest for enlightenment: if hot dogs come in packs of 8, why are buns sold in packs of 10? This illustrates perfectly something I saw author screenwriter Richard Price say a few months ago in an interview whereby he claimed that the studios wanted scripts written as if the target audience was comprised solely of people at the level of intellectual development of ten year olds. At best what you could hope for was a studio that wanted you to write for a very bright ten year old.
Well. Ten year olds should love this film. None of the rest would matter if the fights or the action scenes were exceptional, but they are mediocre at best and dull at worst. Chow and Seann have absolutely no buddy chemistry together. The eye candy factor of Bad Girl and Nazi superwoman is minor. The villain is pointless, uninteresting and less than even single dimensional (I'm guessing that the role was played by a hologram). And the film is pretty much forgotten in between bites of popcorn, to the point where one might have to be reminded of what they're watching by checking their ticket: "What the hell is this film again, uh, Bullety Spunk?" By the time you've left the theatre you've not only forgotten the film but your own name and PIN number.
Chow, I know you can do better. Bad Chow. Be in better films. Let Jet Li do all the bad ones. The world does not need more films like this, The One, Cradle 2 the Grave, The Corruptor, Romeo Must Die, Kiss of the Dragon, or Dude, Where's My Karma. But it does keep thousands of starving Californians and Canadians employed. So I guess it's not all bad. They need our support. Send money now.
But it didn't put a big old smile on my face. And that makes baby Jesus cry.
2 stupid, stupid humans responsible for making this out of 10
I don't like monkeys. - Bulletproof Monk