Mr. Funktastic. That is an actual character in Bulletproof Monk, played by Marcus Jean Piare. He has a group of pickpockets working for him, although how a group of street kids actually find “Mr. Funktastic” in anyway dominating remains a mystery.
Thankfully, this ridiculous character is dropped in the first act, saving the audience of dealing with such idiocy any longer. That is a benefit to the film, because with him, Bulletproof Monk would be completely unbearable. As it stands, this is merely mediocre fantasy.
The film is directed by Paul Hunter, this his first and last feature film. As Monk is trying to imitate (or blatantly rip-off) Chinese martial arts films, Hunter is incapable of handling the work required. The jump cuts, frenzied editing, and close-ups cannot capture the necessity of a choreographed fight. The camera needs to pull away and focus, something it never does in this film.
One can forgive the contrived script, explained away as legend. Seann William Scott plays Kar, a pick-pocket who happens to meet an ageless monk with no name (Chow Yun-Fat) in a subway system while saving a little girl after she falls on the tracks. What follows is a familiar story of master and student, neither of whom carry much charisma to instill the film with energy.
Karel Roden is stuck in a thankless role as Strucker, a Nazi soldier desperately seeking an ancient scroll that could give him limitless powers, one Fat’s character possess. Depth in these characters is not provided. You hate Strucker because he is a Nazi, a perfect villain for sure, but not enough to carry the forcefulness of a lead foe.
The always dependable Mako is one of the few bright spots, a theater owner who shows classic martial arts films for a hungry audience. While the character is thin, he is a lively, inviting, and friendly old man, his performance quirky and enjoyable.
Bulletproof Monk ends with a fun, energetic brawl on the top of a swinging glass sign. Despite the editing, hokey effects, and general lack of character, it is inventive. That’s more than can be said for the characters, who feel pulled out of a children’s movie given their lack of depth.
One of the earliest Blu-ray releases, this MPEG-2 transfer is dated and ugly. Flesh tones are awful, mostly pink and unnatural. Some minor specks on the source are forgivable, especially considering the severity of the edge enhancement used throughout.
Contrast is flat, offering little depth. Black levels are fine, while the whites never attain the necessary brightness. Grain is noisy and clumpy, certainly not natural. Some DNR is undoubtedly at work, as the wholly digital look is consistently maintained. Fine detail is visible in extreme close-ups only.
A powerful, full DTS-HD mix greets viewers from the opening scene. The score uses deep, rich drums that at times do overwhelm the action, but sound superb. A wide front soundstage tracks the frantic action well, and the surround channels are consistently involved.
Gunfire whips through all channels, and glass breaks with wonderful clarity. Street level ambiance is appreciated, and even inside a taxi, all channels maintain atmosphere. While it can sound somewhat forced or overdone, this is a fine mix.
A round of trailers make up the miniscule extras menu.