Bulletproof Monk looks promising: It's based on a comic book, produced by John Woo, and starring Chow Yun-Fat as a Far Eastern variation on Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name. Sadly, it's yet another intercultural mishmash that hopes for its iconic star's charisma to overcome a dire script, cardboard characters, indifferently directed action scenes, and an atrocious villain buried under layers of unconvincing old-man makeup. Disappointing even for a movie co-starring Seann William Scott, Bulletproof Monk casts Chow as the eponymous indestructible monk without a name, who remains eternally middle-aged thanks to a magical scroll he's been protecting for the past 60 years. Scott, a smirking pickpocket with a heart of gold, steals the scroll from Chow, who eventually comes to see the American Pie star as the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. Together, the two flee a geriatric racist who fronts a human-rights organization that, ironically, takes a consistent anti-human-rights stand. Haphazardly directed by commercial and music-video director Paul Hunter, Bulletproof Monk ricochets from one apathetically staged fight or chase to another, resulting in a film that's busy without being energetic and frenzied without being fun. The lack of chemistry between Chow and Scott doesn't help, but Bulletproof misfires in every other way, too. Given Hunter's background as a master of pointlessly excessive music videos, his tin ear for comedy isn't unexpected. What is surprising is Bulletproof Monk's ugliness and dearth of style. It's possible that John Woo might have been able to transcend such sorry material, but Hunter's work isn't likely to make anybody forget Short Circuit director John Badham, let alone Woo. Copious borrowing from Sergio Leone, Woo, and Raiders Of The Lost Ark suggests that Hunter and his screenwriters have seen all the right movies, but they haven't learned anything from them.
More from The A.V. Club