A Tibetan monk has spent the last 60 years protecting an ancient and powerful scroll, and now he's searching for his successor in the most unlikely of places--New York City.
Go ahead and throw logic out the window on this one, folks. A mysterious Tibetan monk with no name (Chow Yun-Fat) has spent a lifetime protecting an ancient document known as the Scroll of the Ultimate--a parchment that will yield unlimited power to anyone who reads it. After running around the globe for 60 years, the Monk knows it's time to hang up his robes and find a new guardian, but spotting a successor isn't easy in the hustle bustle of the 21st century, where Tibetan traditions and rituals are almost non-existent. Maybe the next protector should be the crafty, rebellious pickpocket Kar (Seann William Scott), who learned martial arts from watching kung-fu movies; after all, Kar helps the Monk escape from the scroll's most avid pursuer, Strucker (Karel Roden), a sadistic old Nazi who wants to use the its power to rid the planet of inferior races. Or maybe the Monk's successor is the elusive but beautiful bad girl Jade (James King), whose skills are numerous and who seems to pop up to help Kar whenever he gets in a jam. Whomever the Monk eventually chooses, they must first unite to battle the ultimate enemy--and keep the scroll safe.
If it weren't for Yun-Fat, Bulletproof Monk would be pretty hopeless. The charismatic actor finds a nice balance no matter what he does, and in this case he resists the obvious temptation to play the Monk as a fish out of water in the big city. Since he's long been one of Chinese cinema's most well-known action heroes, he's definitely in his element in Monk standing on top of a car with guns blazing, and the Zen master persona he discovered in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon serves him well here, too. The script requires him to spout off fortune-cookie mumbo jumbo, but he manages to do it without sounding ridiculous. The petite King actually holds her own as the brawny-yet-brainy tough chick, but the wisecracking Scott is completely out of his element for the first time in his career. He handles the little comedic tidbits well, but in no way is it possible to believe that the ''Dude'' who couldn't find his car and the jackass who drank someone else's bodily fluids in American Pie can be a martial arts hero who saves the planet. It just isn't going to happen.
Bulletproof Monk relies on the ghosts of movies past, including Crouching Tiger and the 1986 Eddie Murphy stinker The Golden Child, for its plot, which results in a film that's chock full of cliches, especially the evil Nazi who has spent 60 years chasing after the scroll, using his tow-headed granddaughter, whose cover is an organization for human rights, to do the dirty work. A few bright moments with Yun-Fat, coupled with director Paul Hunter's good use of fast-paced martial arts action, make the rest of this unimaginative movie somewhat palatable--even novices Williams and King look good doing the moves--but all in all Bulletproof Monk is shooting blanks.
Bulletproof Monk won't offer any enlightenment, but thanks to Chow Yun-Fat, it isn't a total waste of time.