Bulletproof Monk Recap

Jamie

There are a lot, lot, lot of things to talk about with Bulletproof Monk. I’ll let Patrick take control of talking about the film itself, while I talk about my true passion: settings. Remember when we watched The Tuxedo a couple weeks back and I was all like, “wait, why does this movie go out of its way to specifically not be set in NYC?” I even created a whole new game, BMysTeries, asking the question of why films occasionally are not set anywhere in particular. Who would have thought that just weeks later, Bulletproof Monk would also seemingly go out of its way to not be set in NYC? And who would have thought that it would provide information that (partially) solves the mystery? Here’s what I learned. Both were filmed in Toronto in 2001 (in fact several locations in the films were filmed in the same buildings). In the writers’ commentary for Bulletproof Monk (which Patrick and I try to listen to now) they mentioned how the film was originally set in NYC, but they decided to scrub out all the references to New York. Why? September 11th! Of course! Basically it was deemed unnecessarily dicey to set a film in NYC, especially one where there may be a shootout or threat of an attack. So in post they CGI’d all the NYC references out. So those “Great State” license plates? More than likely CGI, used to replace the NYC plates with the generic plates that are typically used in films without a setting. So the specific Tuxedo BMysTery was solved! And not only that, solved by our crazy decision to start listening to DVD commentaries while we run. Already paying dividends.

While Bulletproof Monk was not based on a book, it was based on a three-part graphic novel series! And guess who used the fantastic public library system in his local community to obtain said graphic novel series? That’s right, this guy. The series was pretty good. Nice mix of action and Far East philosophy. Really took that part seriously. Reminded me a little of Wanted though. Like I hated the characters. They kinda sucked. But otherwise a good story. So how was the adaptation?… well “adaptation” may be a strong word. The writers and producers were pretty open about just wanting to use the title. It started out with just the words “Bulletproof Monk.” Chow-yun Fat liked that idea and wanted to play that character, so they bought the rights and made a film where he was a character. Everything you see in the film is only loosely based on anything in the comic. Which in some ways is a good thing, since the comic ends after the third issue and doesn’t actually finish the story. The creator just stopped making them for reasons that we can only speculate on. Probably the most troubling thing is that the entire cast of the graphic novel is Asian. The film? Not so much. Kar and Jade are both whitewashed. This would have been huge news if this happened today (see: Gods of Egypt) and may have even stopped production for recasting, but at the time no one thought twice about it. The final note, generally when Patrick and I are looking to see if a film is based on other material we look to writers credits on IMDb. Oddly, the writers of Bulletproof Monk did not get credits on the film. In fact, only the creator of the comic got credit as a producer. I tried to figure out why this is and it would seem the creator is just kind of an asshole. It seemed like he may have created the comic in order to sell it to Hollywood, because once he accomplished that feat he closed up shop, never continued the series (which was written as more of a prequel to a larger story), and became a talent agent in Hollywood. He claimed he couldn’t get credit for everyone because they would have pulled the adaptation, but everyone involved in the comic seems to think that’s bullshit and he just kind of threw everyone under the bus. Fantastic.

Told you there was a lot to talk about.

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! Bulletproof Monk? More like Man This Goof Stunk! Watch out everyone, we tried something new, but more on that later, let’s get into it:

  • The Good – Chow Yun-Fat and Seann William Scott were pretty solid, funny and clearly into the project. Uh ….. Um …. I laughed during the movie.
  • The Bad – Ooof. The longer I think about it the more it seems like a surreal dream. The movie is a complete mess, hacked together into a loose storyline that really doesn’t make sense. The fight scenes were bad. The Nazi centric storyline was bonkers. And sorry, but Jamie King was simply awful. The movie is very dark and grimy as well, but I think that was a comic book thing.
  • The BMT – Again, the more I think on it the more I think this is a solid 50 in BMeTric terms. But the first two thirds are so boring I tend towards a 40. I’ll have to watch it again obviously.

This movie was really rather crazy. Hacked to shit is putting it kindly. And that new thing I mentioned? I listened to the commentary from the writers! (My life! This is my life! What hath our mere human minds created!?) Here is a quick takeaway. I loved listening to it, it was basically them telling stories about production for two hours. It actually operates perfectly as a podcast. And the writers … yeah, they sounded kind of like sellouts. The entire time they were talking about how everything changed due to producer or director pressure and seemed quite cheery about it all. Just like “Oh yeah, the director told us he wanted someone to die, so we said ‘bye Mako’”. They killed off a top ten billed character because the director felt like the Nazis had to kill someone at some point … the scene doesn’t even make sense! Whatever. Really fun. I look forward to Audio Sklog-entaries becoming a new thing in my life.

Quick game I’ll call WTF Did I Just Hear … That Can’t Be Right. Here I’ll highlight a line from the movie that just boggles the mind. This exchange was between Seann William Scott (SWS) and Jaime King (JK):

SWS: “Coming with me takes some gut. Guts and insanity. An interesting mix.”

JK: “Not making it out alive. That would really suck. Under the circumstances.”

SWS: “Yeah, definitely.”

Seriously …. What did I just hear?

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

The Tuxedo Recap

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! The Tuxedo? More like The Tuxe-don’t!!!! No time to waste, I got BMT Theories to attend to:

  • The Good – I am nearly always charmed by Jackie Chan. The ending was a solidly entertaining twist on a tired trope (the guy finally getting the girl he fawned over in the beginning, asll you need is confidence!). Some of the practical effects were genuinely impressive (if terrifying for a kids movie). The directing choices showed passion (this is becoming a theme)
  • The Bad – The plot is linear but convoluted, so weird that it make suspension of disbelief nearly impossible. They utilize wire-work in such a way as to make me not enjoy the one thing I should be enjoying in a Jackie Chan film (martial arts), unbelievable and not fun same as in the Medallion. Hewitt was a bland sidekick (more on this later). The entirety of Jackie Chan pretending to be James Brown, the scene is a travesty to filmmaking in general. The directing choices are out of date (diagonal wipes for scene transitions? What is this, Star Wars?!).
  • The BMT – Yes, although Jamie and I disagreed a bit on the exact level. If you recall the actual number is 50+ (amazing). Jamie thinks that is about right. I thought this was more like a 30-40. Really just bonkers crazy, but it ain’t no Medallion. Which brings me right to my game.

Welcome to BMT University and a new edition of BMT Theories where I give you a probably terrible theory on bad movies. Let’s roll out the main big budget Chan movies/franchises between ‘98 and ‘08: Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon, The Tuxedo, The Medallion, and Around the World in 80 Days. These all have three common denominators besides Jackie Chan. First, martial arts. Second, a kind of ridiculously convoluted plot. Third, a companion, someone who can make fun of how Jackie Chan looks, speaks, and is in general (comedy!).

My Theory: you can pretty much just rank these movies by the interest of the companion. Chris Tucker and Owen Wilson are a bit neck and neck, but I go Owen Wilson all day (and I like Shanghai Noon over Rush Hour, so there). After that we have The Tuxedo, Hewitt did an admirable (although overly silly/bland) job in the role. The Medallion had Lee Evens in a perpetual gay panic, so that was not a great look. And then Around the World in 80 Days had Steve Coogan sleepwalking around Epcot Center-level sets. Voila, it works!

I do think this movie was slightly better than The Medallion which is where the 30-40 BMeTric assessment comes in. I think The Medallion is 50+, but this one was saved slightly by Hewitt. I’m excited to see how the theory holds up with Spy Next Door where Jackie Chan is paired with three children.

Jamie

As usual I allowed Patrick to tell the story of The Tuxedo to our loyal audience, while I concerned myself more with some of the underlying themes and characteristics that interest us in the BMTverse. Briefly I’ll say that I thought The Tuxedo was bonkers. A great BMT film. Really hacked to shit in editing, super odd pacing to a confounding story arc, and a scenery-eating antagonist extraordinaire. I liked it a lot. Some might disagree.

I’m tired of making up fake book adaptations. Instead, I’ll play a new game called BMysTeries. The Tuxedo provides a perfect opportunity for me to talk way too much about one of my favorite BMT subjects: the setting. I love settings. I find it fascinating to try to figure why particular films are set in particular places. Is it necessary that Chill Factor take place in Montana? Nope. Could have been Small Town, U.S.A., but they chose Montana. Why? Hard to say. But it’s easy to see why New Year’s Eve takes place in New York. Interestingly it’s rare for us to watch a film that doesn’t have an identifiable setting, and even rarer for a film to go out of its way to obscure where it takes place. The Tuxedo is one such film. How do I know it’s not set anywhere? Well whenever I watch a BMT film I always look for evidence pointing to where a film is set (I’m a weirdo): license plates on cars, landmarks, business cards, etc. In The Tuxedo every license plate was the same: “The Great State” listed on top, “Freedom” on the bottom. Additionally, the home address of one of the characters is shown explicitly on screen no less than three times. The state on the address? LI. A made up state abbreviation! Perhaps an underhanded way of implying Long Island = New York… but hard to say as the town names are all made up. You have to give the film credit for going all in on not having a setting. But why? It’s the question I’ve been asking myself all week. Why? Why is it important that the film have no setting? I could understand having fake license plates (cheaper?), but a fake state abbreviation doesn’t save anything (other than saving you from having to specify a setting). It’s a BMysTery. BMysTery #1: Why do settingless films not have a setting?

I will be researching this topic for future entries. Perhaps if I collect enough datapoints, I’ll be able to figure out the benefit that The Tuxedo gained being set in The Great State of LI. For now it’s a spooky mystery.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs