|Though many Honk Kong action flicks have long been cursed with poor dubbing and sound, American martial arts productions usually benefit from larger budgets and "sound" much better than the Cantonese Kung-Fu films that currently dominate Hong Kong's market. But there are few American examples in the world of martial arts films that can compete visually with those Hong Kong productions. In another example of "MTV" editing, director Paul Hunter has treated this film as he would a five minute long music video, by inserting as many angle changes and edits as possible within each action sequence.|
Is quite ironic that Hunter actually comes to feature film with a background in music video production. Having worked with a long slate of Grammy winning artists and having shown himself capable of creating successful commercials, it is only natural that Hunter should want to branch out into feature film. But with Bulletproof Monk, Hunter has just made it quite clear that he believes a two hour film can operate in the same exact way that a five minute music video can.
While it is exciting to see a high powered action sequence contain a multitude of camera angles and creative editing techniques, Hunter's editor has just gone way too far with that idea. Part of the charm of a martial arts sequence is the ballet-like moves the actors must engage in to create the illusion of actual fighting. Setting the camera up and letting it focus on a couple of fighting characters can be exhilarating without a single cut in the shot being needed for the final product.
But the characters in Monk don't have the chance to display any of their fighting moves in any shot lasting more than a nanosecond. The director (or whoever held the reins in the editing room) thought obstructing the audience's view of the fighting with whipping camera moves and choppy edit cuts would be a good substitute for intelligent choreography. There's a reason Hong Kong films do so well: the directors know that people want to see the fighting, not the over-zealous actions of the editor.
Put simply, a feature film cannot exist as a two hour music video unless it's a musical. And then it is a two hour music video. But there are no dance sequences or singing breaks in Monk. In fact, the score (a well done piece of music when not attached to the film) is many times completely out of place with the tone of the film. It's impossible to take Chow Yun-Fat's Tibetan monk character seriously when he's imparting some ancient Chinese wisdom over the sounds of rock and roll and guitars. It would have behooved the composer to include some more appropriate music. But perhaps he was strong-armed by the music video turned feature film director.
Perhaps if Bulletproof Monk displayed more intelligence on the acting side of the bench the film's editing and musical peculiarities would be easily forgiven. After all, an engrossing performance can often eclipse most visual and aural mistakes. But the casting in this film is one of its largest slip-ups. Particularly the casting of wafer-thin model (pardon me, I mean "actress") Jamie King as "Bad Girl," the love interest for Seann William Scott. If ever there needed to be insults thrown at a model for having strayed off the catwalk, King is definitely the proper recipient.
Other models have had varying degrees of success in front of the camera and some have even turned heads with more than just their looks. Just look at Charlize Theron's current popularity. But Jamie King is, without a doubt, the worst model turned actress to ever have graced the screen. One could write a novel on her horrible delivery of dialogue, her messy performance involving the martial arts choreography, or the peals of laughter her character receives from the audience whenever she's on the screen (don't forget, this film is not a comedy).
And after taking roles in such popular comedies as the American Pie series (of which a third installment is due Summer, 2003) and the Dude, Where's My Car? series (there is a second film announced), Seann William Scott has the momentous task of making viewers believe he's not the beer chugging "Stifler" in American Pie or the complete nerf-herder "Chester" in Car. Sometimes, he is successful. His performance in Bulletproof Monk certainly won't earn him the jeers and laughter that Jamie King's performance has. But Scott has pigeon-holed himself quite nicely with his comedic outings, and he will doubtless have to work doubly hard to escape the stigma of "Stifler."
That Chow Yun-Fat has talent for martial arts choreography and is an entertaining character in Kung-Fu movies is undeniable. He enjoyed quite an extensive career exclusively in Hong Kong for several years before jumping the pond to make American films. But the butcher (I mean, editor) of Bulletproof Monk has made it impossible for audiences to enjoy Chow's abilities. His elegant fighting style and quirky sense of humor are flattened by the director's need to make cuts over and over again in the film negative. To be a successful film, the producers should have dropped Jamie King from the roster, given the director some valium, and gotten an editor with more restraint. Bulletproof Monk makes a mess of its genre, its stars, and is a black mark on the beginning of Paul Hunter's feature film career.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.