Jeff Jensen
April 25, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Bulletproof Monk

Current Status
In Season
104 minutes
Wide Release Date
Seann William Scott, Chow Yun-Fat, Marcus Jean Pirae, James King, Mako, Karel Roden, Victoria Smurfit
Paul Hunter
John Woo
Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris

We gave it a C-

It’s not like the 1999 comic-book miniseries on which Bulletproof Monk is based is so famous or cultish or even so interesting that purists have been waiting anxiously for the film’s release. I haven’t found much anticipatory consternation in Internet chat rooms over whether the actor who plays the title role will do justice to the character. Still, with little to lose, this dispiritingly mediocre production manages to lose it, and I don’t mean in a Zen, all-is-nothing way. Junky ”Monk,” directed by commercial- and music-video-oriented Paul Hunter like a series of 60-second ads for the ”Crouching Tiger” school of stunts, is as ungainly in its jammed-together East-meets-West-ness as Steven Seagal in a yoga pose.

The back story establishes the ancient Tibetan origins of the BPM, and gets viewers used to the sight of a moonfaced Chow Yun-Fat in a buzz cut, lumbering around in a flapping ”Matrix”-ian greatcoat; the present story finds the BPM in grungy, urban America (requiring set dressing for an identifiably well-kempt Toronto), where he selects a punky rogue — a pickpocket and fan of Hong Kong martial-arts movies who calls himself Kar — as his successor-in-training. The punk also becomes the monk’s partner in a mission to protect an ancient scroll that contains the most important knowledge in the universe from falling into the hands of a cartoony old Nazi (”15 Minutes”’ Karel Roden). Seann William Scott plays the disciple with the same bulletproof-slacker demeanor that carried him through ”American Pie” and ”Road Trip.”

There’s no explaining why Scott was selected to be repositioned and remuscled into an action hero. Then again, there’s no explaining why pouty Revlon spokesmodel Jaime (formerly known as James) King was selected to play a tough chick who becomes Kar’s girlie. Or why Chow Yun-Fat isn’t monk-kicking his agent right about now while meditating on his Hollywood career, Dude, where’s my karma?

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