Bulletproof Monk cast: Chow Yun-fat, Seann William Scott, Jamie King, Karel Roden, and Victoria Smurfit director: Paul Hunter 99 minutes (12) 2003 widescreen ratio 2.35:1 Pathé DVD Region 2 retail RATING: 7/10 reviewed by Jeff Young

With John Woo and Terence Chang among its producers, Paul Hunter’s feature directing debut is assured of a certain quality whatever its success in translating the comicbook source material into big screen action. From an opening scene in Tibet, 1943 – where a mountaintop Buddhist temple housing an ancient scroll is invaded by Nazi troops, the story continues in America 60 years later, where the ageless, wandering monk-with-no-name (Chow Yun-fat) – who has “the trust of time” – is still being hunted by the obsessed Struker (Karel Roden), who dreams of world domination, and wants the scroll’s magical powers to use as a supreme weapon.
After meeting streetwise New York pickpocket and kung fu student Kar (Seann William Scott) and mysterious heiress Jade (Jamie King), the Monk fends off a gang of armed thieves led by Struker’s granddaughter Nina (Victoria Smurfit), and realises that, according to prophesy, Kar has a unique destiny linked to the scroll’s ultimate power and enlightenment…
As with Michael Ritchie’s The Golden Child (1986), and the Cynthia Rothrock vehicle Prince Of The Sun (1990), this fantasy adventure is somewhat influenced by Spielberg’s Indiana Jones movies. It mixes eastern and western themes, and showcases the Zen calm of “fortune cookie philosophy,” martial arts proficiency and character-driven humour, with sci-fi trappings like a brain-drain machine. It has veteran actor Mako appearing as cinema owner Kojima, and boasts some fine CGI shots and digitally erased wirework in the abundance of well-choreographed stunts. The serenity and wisdom stemming from the oriental Temple of Sublime Truth contrasts sharply with the urban turf values and aggressive US tendencies represented by the underground lair of Mr Funktastic’s Manhattan subway gang, and the main villains are cunning enough to use a human rights organisation as a front for their mercenaries’ mission to steal the ‘Scroll of the Ultimate’.
This is a slickly edited adventure movie delivering plenty of good harmless fun, decent visual effects and a number of clever jokes, but it fails to be anything more than straightforward popcorn entertainment. A shame really, as judging from the closing scenes, I’d guess the filmmakers were hoping this might result in a sequel or even a new franchise.
DVD extras: half a dozen behind-the-scenes featurettes, each looking at artistic or technical aspects of the filmmaking process (martial arts, cinematography, CG effects, costumes, music, etc.), deleted scenes plus an alternate ending, director’s commentary track, photo gallery, and the theatrical trailer.