Why I Love... Bulletproof Monk


29th July 2005

It's not every day that I can claim to have seen the worst film ever made, but the day I saw Bulletproof Monk was to be that day. That's not one of those Comic Book Guy, Worst Movie EVER, instant reactions either; I saw it on a rainy evening some two years ago now, and I still feel the same about it to this day. The plot? What there is of a plot is hackneyed and poorly put together, like it was edited by a homeless guy who stumbled into the editing suite and fell asleep on the console. The acting? Laughable all round: everyone looks like they can't wait to clock out and attack the buffet. The script? The line "do you like my car, Kar?" speaks for itself. Make no mistake: everything about Bulletproof Monk stinks like month-old ass, title included. It sets the bar for action flicks so delightfully low, even Tom Cruise would struggle to limbo under it. How can you not love a movie with the tagline 'A Monk, a Punk, a Chick and a kickass flick'?

The story will take longer for me to type it out than it is explained in the film, but hold tight. Chow Yun Fat plays a nameless monk, who zigzags across the globe like a Tibetan Alan Whicker, protecting an ancient scroll that has the power to bring about world peace, or - dun dun duuuun - total Armageddon. As we know, wherever there evil and destruction, there'll be a Nazi just around the corner. Monk has to enlist a replacement protector in the form of young street punk Kar, played by Stifler, and fight off the evil Nazi forces, who now dress like agents from The Matrix. Cue lots of obvious wire-fu fighting, CGI body doubles that look like they were created in MS Paint, bullet-time gun battles and our hero fighting while holding a bowl of Coco Pops. It's every bit as mind-blowingly awesome as it sounds.

The characters in Bulletproof Monk are fantastically named. There's the monk, known only as Monk. There's a Russian mob princess called Bad Girl. Stifler's character is called Kar. It's like the writer couldn't think of any decent names, so just wrote the first things he saw out of his window. On the surface, Monk appears to be deep, considered and spiritual, but on closer inspection, he's actually just a straight-faced version of The Sphinx from Mystery Men, only utterly without irony. "Who am I? That is a question you must ask yourself." This is the kind of guy we're dealing with, the sort of bloke that answers a question with another question because he doesn't know the answer (if you get lost, never ask him for directions - to take a left, first you must make a right, then become one with the motorway). Despite the promising title of the film, Monk isn't even bulletproof; he takes a hit and falls off a mountain before you'll have even sat down with your nachos. Trade Descriptions were informed, believe me. It's a bit like having the Invisible Man in your movie, only he's wearing a glow-in-the-dark suit and a big flashing hat.

On their travels, the crew end up in a disused subway station, and bump into an end of level boss called - get this - Mr. Funktastic. Not only does Mr. Funktastic walk around with his top off and pick fights with random Buddhists, but he's also got a faux-Cockney accent to boot ("Sounds like this bit of crumpet wants some of Mr. Funktastic's loving!"). Why stop at underground fights with Mockneys when there are devious Nazis to be disposed of, mind-reading devices to marvel at and gravity-defying henchmen to punch in the stomach? It's a veritable roller coaster of excitement, but a roller coaster that you queued up for half a day to get on, travels at 4 miles per hour and comes with a spare seat next to an accountant from Gillingham called Clive. And you've already been on it twice today. All the actors involved look like they are performing at gunpoint they're so uncomfortable, and the fight scenes are about as dangerous and exciting as watching a man watching paint dry on E4+1. Rooting for the Nazis has never been more fun, or more appropriate.

So why does Bulletproof Monk still remain a firm favourite, even today? After all, I've watched a mountain of crappy films - most of which star Steve Guttenberg - which vanish from memory mere nanoseconds after the closing credits roll. I'm reminded of Samuel L. Jackson's closing comments from Unbreakable, about polar opposites - if there are amazing movies out there like Drunken Master and The Matrix, then by rights, there has to be a film at the opposite end of the spectrum. Be grateful - the Earth would spin wildly off its axis if it weren't for movies like Bulletproof Monk, balancing out the energy of the universe while visibly emitting stink lines. It's like the Monk would say: "To appreciate good films, first you must appreciate bad films." There are none worse to appreciate. Ali

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