BULLETPROOF MONK was a dud when it hit the theaters last spring. Despite Chow Yun Fat’s presence, nobody seemed all that interested in it. It’s out on DVD now, and you can decide what you think of it from the comfort of your own home. Judging by the box office numbers, there’s a good chance you didn’t see it in the theaters.
The movie is a sad waste of great potential. The relationship between Yun Fat’s monk and Seann William Scott’s streetwise Kar is interesting, and they light up the screen together when they’re bantering back and forth. The movie has a good sense of humor. It also has a pretty cute fight scene between Kar and Jade. I’d hate to call it an erotic or sexy fight scene, but it is well choreographed.
Everything else is a waste. The plot uses Nazis as the villain, for starters. I don’t think that’s worked in an action/adventure film since INDIANA JONES. But the biggest waste is the action sequences. Those could have saved the movie, if they were at all believable. Instead, they’re hyper-edited even worse than ARMAGEDDON. The fight scenes might be well choreographed, but you’ll never see them. The quick cuts happen so fast and furious that things seem to happen out of order.
In comics, there’s a need to tell a story sequentially. One of the toughest things for artists to master is to tell the story with a progression of panels. You have to guide the reader’s eye along to show him what’s happening. BULLETPROOF MONK fails to do that — and it’s a live action movie! Camera angles are gratuitous, not well thought out, and a confusing jumble. I believe the director has a background in music videos. Not a surprise.
One last movie gripe: the soundtrack is wretched. It’s flat and sounds synthesized even though it’s not. It completely undercuts one or two action scenes, such as the rooftop fight with the helicopter.
The DVD is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some nice behind the scenes things, including an alternate ending, a look at the original comic the movie is based off of, and the standard behind the scenes stuff for a movie of this type. But there’s one huge mistake:
If you know what a layer switch is, skip ahead to the next paragraph. A single sided/single layer DVD can hold over 4 GB worth of data on it. Most DVDs are single sided/double layered to add an additional 4+ GB of data space. That’s about three hours of decent quality video. This means there are two layers of material on the same side of the disc and, at some point, the DVD player needs to switch from the first layer to the second. This usually results in a slight pause
Most layer switches occur during scene shifts, or in quiet moments. This minimizes the impact a two second freeze frame might have to the viewer. Some DVD players handle them almost without anyone being able to notice, but that’s rare.
BULLETPROOF MONK commits the cardinal sin of locating the layer switch in the middle of an action scene, as a character is seen hurtling through the air and crashing through a glass ceiling. This is, needless to say, DVD AUTHORING 101: Do not place a layer switch there!
So we learn a lot from BULLETPROOF MONK. First, it’s OK when ALIAS uses some extra edits to cheat and get an action sequence filmed in a week. It’s not so good when a feature film does it after training its leads for weeks in the techniques. Second, layer switches MUST happen in quiet moments. Third, Nazis are tired villains, unless it’s a period piece. Fourth, HARD BOILED is one of the greatest action movies of all time. Fifth, a bad soundtrack will stand out.
Save your money on this turkey.
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