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Film / Bulletproof Monk

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Bulletproof Monk is a 2003 martial arts action-fantasy film starring Chow Yun-fat, Seann William Scott and Jaime King and is about a bulletproof monk. The film was directed by Paul Hunter. It is loosely based on the comic book by Michael Avon Oeming.

For 60 years a mysterious monk with no name has zigzagged the globe to protect an ancient scroll - a scroll that holds the key to unlimited power. Now the Monk must look for a new scrollkeeper. Kar is an unlikely candidate, a streetwise young man whose only interest is himself. But when he inadvertently saves the Bulletproof Monk from capture, the two become partners in a scheme to save the world from the scroll's most avid pursuer. Packed with spectacular special effects and martial arts action, the Monk, Kar, and a sexy Russian mob princess called Jade must struggle to find, face, and fight the ultimate enemy.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Jade's combat skills are appropriate for her status.
  • Anti-Hero: Kar is crude, he's a thief and otherwise not what The Monk was looking for when he set out to find a successor but he still has noble qualities.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Kar meets one after joining the Monk. He has an horrendous attitude and acts like anyone outside his circle is trash.
  • Artifact of Doom: What the Scroll is in the wrong hands; instant genocide!
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: Strucker, once his youth is restored, is able to battle the monk on equal terms, in contrast to the rest of his men.
  • Awesome by Analysis: Kar taught himself how to fight by watching kung-fu movies and mimicking the moves shown there. The Monk spies on him "training" by doing kata with Bruce Lee footage.
  • Badass Longcoat: Worn by the monk in many scenes, including scenes where he gets to kick ass.
  • The Baroness: Nina. Although young and stunningly beautiful, underneath her facade is a twisted and murderous sadist who stops at nothing to further the goals of her Nazi grandfather.
  • Battle Couple: Kar and Jade. After they fight each other they fight together.
  • Big Bad: Strucker, the Nazi officer who destroyed the monk's old temple and killed his brothers trying to obtain the scroll.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The granddaughter of a Nazi officer who works to help her grandfather obtain the scroll so that he can commit genocide on a global scale. Her day job is running the Human Rights Organization.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: When Strucker is hanging off the side of a building by a pipe the Monk is holding onto, he insanely screams that he will never change his murderous Nazi ways.
  • Complete Immortality: Scroll Guardians cannot be killed nor will they ever die of old age.
  • Crazy-Prepared: The Monk not only tattooed the Scroll on his body rather than continuing to carry it as a physical object, but went so far as to memorise the final passage so that nobody could just knock him out and read the Scroll that way.
  • Crushing Handshake: One of the monks tries this on Kar, leading to a standoff of sorts.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Nina is just as cruel and wicked as the Big Bad.
  • Dark Action Girl: Nina is cruelly efficient.
  • Death Seeker: The Monk, though it's more of a "find a successor and retire" thing than a "die in battle" thing.
  • Designated Girl Fight: It's pretty inevitable that Jade and Nina will end up fighting.
  • Disney Villain Death: Subverted. The Monk lets Strucker fall from a great height onto a bunch of power cables, but he survives and reappears to try to shoot Kar after the Monk names him his successor. What actually does kill him is Kar dropping the massive statue in the Human Rights Organization building on top of him.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Downplayed. Strucker mentions to Nina after she fails a mission that just because she's his granddaughter that won't save her for long.
  • Evil Brit: Kar's Starter Villain, Mr. Funktastic, is the Cockney leader of a band of young gangsters, and quite a vicious man.
    • Nina, Strucker's Dragon, also has an English accent, but hers is more refined, and might also be put on, since she's the granddaughter of a literal Nazi.
  • Evil Cripple: Strucker is old and feeble, but he's still a vicious Nazi.
  • Evil Plan: The Big Bad is a Nazi. Naturally, his goal is to use mystical power to commit genocide and become a god.
  • Excuse Me While I Multitask: The Monk dodges his soon-to-be Odd Couple partner's attacks while eating a bowl of Cocoa Puffs and not spilling a drop.
  • Foreseeing My Death: When Nina first meets Jade, she directs her attention to an exhibit showing a helpless woman about to be executed, darkly hinting at her fascist beliefs by suggesting that she'd prefer to be the one doing the killing. This little threat blows up in her face, however, as Jade later manages to render her as helpless as the woman in the exhibit. Jade summarily executes Nina by snapping her neck, bringing the comparison between them and the victim/executioner full circle.
  • Fountain of Youth: Strucker the Nazi is seeking the power of the scroll to restore his youth before gaining ultimate power. He succeeds, only to revert back to his former age when Kar kills him.
  • Give Me Back My Wallet: Kar is first introduced by pick-pocketing several people in the subway. When he tries it on the Monk, the Monk gets it back from him. Later on, the Monk repeats Kar's trick to give back a wallet Kar stole from a random pedestrian, and makes it clear he's going to keep doing that until Kar agrees to learn from him.
  • Ghostapo: The film's Big Bad is a former SS officer who wants the Scroll's power for himself.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Bulletproof Monk was originally going to have an R rating, during the switch to a PG-13 rating, one of the characters was renamed Mr. Funktastic from his previously, more offensive moniker. His original name is still noticeable where his necklace has been suspiciously affixed to his chest to cover up his tattoo.
    • The TV edit has old, seasoned police officers calling each other "silly beast" in anger.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Kar wears a leather jacket when we first meet him.
  • Humans Are Flawed: The Monk's Order hides the Scroll because humanity as a whole is "not ready" for its power.
  • Humans Are Good: The Monk's Order implies that, in the future, humans might be responsible enough for the Scroll's power, which is why they don't destroy it outright.
  • Immortality Seeker: Part of the reason the Big Bad wants the scroll is to live forever.
  • Immune to Bullets:
    • The Monk has this as a Scroll Guardian power, thus the title "Bulletproof Monk".
    • Kar and Jade become this when the scroll is passed to them at the end.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: Played with
    • Lampshaded by Kar. Who would expect a Chinese movie theater to be owned and operated by a Japanese man?
    • Kar tries to pass off the Monk as a (Chinese) Shaolin to Jade, but she immediately points out that Shaolin have to completely shave their heads. She accurately identifies him as a Tibetan Buddhist (Chow Yun-fat is really Chinese). Conversely, the Monk (who has spent time in Kashmir) shows familiarity with Sikh tenets to an Indian cab driver, who jokes that he'd almost think the Monk was a Sikh himself but for not having enough hair (observant Sikh men don't shave or cut their hair).
  • Is This a Joke?: Nina's response when one of the monks apparently misdirects her to Kar's discarded bag instead of the Monk. Then he indicates the trapdoor they went down.
  • Koan: The riddle of why hot dogs come in packs of 10 and buns in packs of 8. Gar first suggests that it's a way of saying you need to push yourself.
    The reason hot dogs come in packages of ten but hot-dog buns come in packages of just eight is so you’ll always need more buns for your hot dogs—because no matter how much you get, how much you achieve, how many times you win… You can never, ever let yourself feel like it’s enough.
    • He changes his mind after becoming the new Monk, deciding it means that you can't really be happy until you accept what you can't change.
      You just have to accept that, no matter how hard you try, you can never, ever have everything you want… So be happy with what you’ve got—‘cause you can always have a hot dog.
  • Lack of Empathy: Strucker cares only about restoring his youth and establishing the dominance of the "Master Race" all over the world. Then again, what do you expect from a literal Nazi?
  • Lancer vs. Dragon: While Kar and the Monk with No Name take on the Nazi Big Bad Strucker, Jade aka Bad Girl faces off against his granddaughter Nina.
  • Legacy of the Chosen: The Monk is established to be just the current iteration of a legacy spanning generations past.
  • Love at First Punch: Kar and Jade; it's described in the movie as Battling for love in the palace of Jade.
  • Mafia Princess: Jade's father is a big name in the criminal underworld. This is significant in regards to the Scroll's prophecy. Because she is a princess, her mansion counts as a palace.
  • Meaningful Name: Having grown up without a family, Kar decided to give himself one, via his name. The Monk reveals that the Cantonese word for 'family' is actually pronounced 'Gaw'.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: The first Guardian shown in the film is shot to death as soon as he finishes training Monk. Mr. Kojima, who has been trying to get Kar to figure his life out, is murdered by Nina when she is trying to find Kar.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: The young monk at the beginning of the film who sees the Monk being given the scroll has a white-tufted Capuchin on his shoulder. Capuchins are monkeys native to Latin America, not Tibet where the monastery is located.
  • Neck Lift: Strucker does this to Kar and holds him out over the traffic in an attempt to force the Monk into telling him the secret to ultimate power.
  • Neck Snap: This is how Jade finishes off Nina during their fight in the sewers.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight: Nina brings a sai to her martial arts duel with Jade. Jade still wins.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: After breaking Nina's leg during their showdown, Jade continues to beat the helpless blonde into a stupor. It's only when the blonde looks on the verge of passing out that Jade pulls her into a chokehold and snaps her neck.
  • No Man of Woman Born: The prophecy sounds specific but there's actually a lot of wiggle room. To be specific, the titular Monk must have completed three rather unlikely tasks:
    • Defeat an army of enemies while a flock of cranes circle above.
      • Kar does this in the opening - Funktastic's gang, under a dozen lifting cranes. So does Jade - by discreetly throwing Kar a weapon and then persuading Funktastic to stand down.
    • Battle for love in the palace of jade.
      • The two have a fight in Jade's mansion. (Jade can either be an ornamental gemstone which in this case is immaterial because it is also a girl's name)
    • Free brothers he never knew with the family he never had.
      • Both of them rescue monks from Strucker - Kar fights him directly alongside the Nameless Monk, while Jade frees the captives from their bonds. In a deleted scene, all this is done with the help of Funktastic's gang.
  • No Immortal Inertia: Former Scroll Guardians simply look older when they pass the mantel; 50 years older in about 5 seconds.
  • No Name Given: The Monk; part of his guardianship of the Scroll is that he had to give up his identity. Other characters just refer to him as either "Monk" or "Nameless."
  • Parental Substitute: Mr. Kojima looks after Kar and tries to convince him to get his life figured out.
  • Perspective Reversal: Nina directs Jade's attention to a photo of an execution on display at the exhibit opening and asks whether she would choose to be the cowering woman about to be shot, or the shooter, the framing of the question making her own choice obvious. Nina, however, is the one rendered defenseless when the two face-off, helpless and afraid as Jade snaps her neck.
  • Pipe Pain: Kar and Mr. Funktastic bring pipes into their martial arts fight later on.
  • Plot Armor: In-universe justification for the Monk; he literally can't die until he finds a successor. Time won't let him.
  • Prophecy Twist: The viewer is early on shown how the prophecy can be interpreted for Kar, but its not until later that it works for Jade at the same time. Then there's the whole 'Chinese prophecy translated into English' issue.
  • Retirony: The guardian of the scroll in the opening hands over the responsibility, declares that after sixty years he is finally going to take a vacation, and is promptly gunned down by Nazis.
  • Rule of Cool: A supernaturally-young warrior monk trying to defend a Scroll containing the secret of ultimate power from an aging Nazi with the help of a Street Urchin and a Mafia Princess. Pretty cool premise, right?
  • Running Gag: Kar's pickpocketing comes up a lot. It's how he got the Scroll in the first place.
  • Say My Name: Strucker at the beginning of the film after the Monk escapes him. Kar later on in the film, when he's searching for the Monk to help battle Strucker.
  • Taking You with Me: Strucker tries pulling the Monk over the side of the building they're fighting on so that the Monk's knowledge will die with him. Thanks to the Monk letting go of the pipe they're both holding on to, Strucker falls alone.
  • Title Drop: In a roundabout way. When the Monk is fleeing Strucker in the opening sequence, Strucker quips "you are good, but you are not bulletproof".
  • Unusual Pets for Unusual People: Jade the Mafia Princess lives in a Big Fancy House and keeps a mantis and a cobra in tanks. It's possible they were left to her by her father before he went to jail.
  • Villainesses Want Heroes: Nina is extremely attracted to the Monk; it takes a dark turn when it's implied she rapes or otherwise sexually assaults him while scanning the scroll he has tattooed on his body.
  • Warrior Monk: The Monk, and others have to be this because they are guarding an Artifact of Doom. That training and self-discipline is necessary.
  • Wham Line: When Strucker finally gets his hands on the Scroll...
    Strucker: Where is the rest of it!?
    Monk: I memorized it. Just in case someone like you managed to get this far.
  • What the Fu Are You Doing?: Kar was a good fighter even before he received training from Monk, but he flounders a few times due to trying to copy moves from TV and movies. When Monk trains him, he corrects these misconceptions about martial arts.
  • Xanatos Gambit: The Monk's goal and plan is to keep the Scroll from anyone else's hands but whether he succeeds or not (and the Scroll is stolen) is ultimately irrelevant. This is because the final verse is missing, thus making the Scroll useless on its own. This failsafe was made because the Monk anticipated the possibility of his failing as a guardian.