Bulletproof Monk gets anamorphic widescreen treatment from MGM in the film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It’s a nice, big canvas for former video music director Paul Hunter to work with and he does a surprisingly good job of creating a rather subdued and gritty look and feel for his picture and it fit the material at hand quite nicely.
The image was pretty crisp and defined for the most part, but contained moments where things would go a bit soft and some of the finer detail in the picture would be lost. Colors were generally spot on and very natural, with appropriate balance and contrast throughout. For the most part, the palette was rather subdued – if not dingy in places – but there were a few moments in the film where they were quite brilliant and bold. The vast majority of this was intentional and wasn’t caused by any sort of problem with the transfer, although some instances definitely seemed like more of a transfer issue. Black levels were pretty solid, as shadow detail and delineation seemed to be spot on much more often than not.
Outside of the softness and occasional loss of detail, there was also some slight haloing and shimmer noted in a couple of scenes, as well as some trivial edge enhancement. A few flakes and flecks were noted from time to time, but were definitely of the non-distracting variety, as the master print seemed to be in rather good shape – just as it should for a film as recent as this.
All in all, not a bad transfer by any stretch of the imagination. While MGM has done much better with much less on other DVDs, the transfer for Bulletproof Monk looks good enough to placate most hardcore fans of the film.
MGM’s Bulletproof Monk is presented in a nicely done Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that presents a fairly solid presentation throughout. While not quite as hearty or robust as others in the genre, MGM has given Bulletproof Monk a transfer that fans of the film can definitely live with – definitely pacifying the vast majority rather the nit-picky reviewing community of which I am a part.
The film contains its fair share of action-packed moments, but the transfer rarely delivers big. There are some really aggressive moments in the film that deliver nice directional splits, impressive LFE usage, and sweet surround usage, but at times, much of it sounds very thin and restrained. Gunfire, explosions, wind/rain, punches/kicks, vehicles/aircraft all work their way into the mix at some point or another and while accurately placed within the encompassing soundstage, many times it’s simply muddled and jumbled, lacking any real crispness or smooth frequency response. All that being said, Bulletproof Monk remained an active track from beginning to end.
Dialogue was crisp and intelligible at all times, with only a couple of occasions noted where it seemed to be overpowered by what was happening on the screen. Eric Serra’s very appropriate score was definitely the highlight of the track, as it really seemed to shine in MGM’s 5.1 presentation. It took full use of the front and rear surrounds and exhibited admirable dynamics and fidelity throughout.
MGM has also included Dolby 2.0 Surround track in French, and Spanish, as well as subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Mandarin, and Cantonese. A very tolerable and admittedly above-average mix, but Bulletproof Monk contained the type of action that really wanted to break out more than it was allowed here.
MGM releases Bulletproof Monk in a full-fledged “Special Edition” that contains some pretty interesting supplements regardless of what you thought about the film itself. Starting things off – and with a little bit of overkill – we get two Audio Commentaries dissecting the film every which way but loose. The first audio commentary features director Paul Hunter and producers Charles Roven and Douglas Segal. This was a pretty generic commentary that covered a lot of redundant territory from the featurettes seen later on the disc and ultimately, it was quite a chore to get through. While there were some interesting comments brought out, there were some mentioned that were so blatantly obvious that it was hard to believe the participants felt it was worth pointing out. There were quite a few silent lapses in the track and many of the moments that contained commentary would have been just as well off being silent. There’s nothing earth-shattering gleaned here and only a few funny anecdotes from the set.
The second commentary is hosted by writers Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris and is definitely a step above the previous outing. The very cordial and funny duo covers a lot of ground including casting (who would have been worse than Stifler – Paul Walker or Heath Ledger?), ideas contributed to the film by Chow Yun-Fat, the evolution of the script and the changes that were eventually made, historical facts surrounding the story and the attention to detail on many of the cultural aspects of the film, homages included that gave respectful and playful nods to other action films and directors, anecdotes from the set, and so on. Not the most interesting commentary you’ll ever hear, but light years ahead of our other option on the Bulletproof Monk DVD. Definitely worth checking out.
The The Tao Of Monk contains five mini-featurettes under the main selection that can be run back to back to back using MGM’s handy –PLAY ALL- selection. The features each cover a specific part of the film and included we find “Fists of Fury” (7:04 – Deals mainly with the martial arts sequences seen in the film and all of the fighting styles used. Also focuses on the wire work, how the actors trained, and fight coordinators Stephen Tung and Wong Wei Leung.); “Enter the Monk” (19:52 – This feature serves as our EPK/promotional HBO “First Look” supplement that briefly touches on all aspects of the film from the script and the comic book it evolved from to casting the actors to production and filming schedules and so on.); “Zen Palette” (9:51 – The visual style, look, and feel of the film are covered here, as well as set and prop design. Good stuff.); “Smoke & Mirrors” (8:01 – The supplement covers the visual and special effects used in the film to create the fight/action scenes. The crew discusses their decision to blend the effects in as naturally as possible so they wouldn’t overpower the rest of the film. Certain scenes are covered in great detail.); and finally, “The Art of Score” (10:34 – Here, composer Eric Serra discusses the music he created for the film and how he wanted it to be contemporary, yet appropriate for the period/location. We also see how sound effects, as well as score, were used to achieve such nice results heard in the film.). This was a really nice way to get acquainted with Bulletproof Monk and the many elements involved in bringing it to the big screen and MGM deserves major kudos for making these supplements as interesting and well-produced as they are. Nice job.
Following is The Monk Unrobed (6:58) and here, we get a nifty little featurette that introduces us to the “Bulletproof Monk” comic from Flypaper Press. We learn how the company wanted to create a different type of superhero in their limited run, three issue series. We learn about the noir elements in the story, the writers and artists involved with the comic, how the evolution of computers and visual effects have brought about a comic book explosion on the big screen, and how “Bulletproof Monk” ended up being picked up by MGM for a feature-length, big budget feature.
Next up are five Deleted Scenes that can be viewed with or without optional commentary from editor Robert K. Lambert and while a nice addition to the DVD, these scenes weren’t a big loss to the feature itself. Lambert’s commentary is painfully dull and the scenes included here are “Monk Flashes Kar To Monastery”, “Tugboat”, “Crew Plan”, “Crew At Human Rights Organization”, and “Crew Battles Monk and Funk”. The scenes are presented in unfinished form, widescreen, and Dolby 2.0 and when using MGM’s handy –PLAY ALL- feature, run for 11:37 in total.
There’s an Alternate Ending (4:51) that features optional commentary from editor Robert K. Lambert and as before, it’s presented in widescreen and Dolby 2.0 with unfinished effects and dialogue. The commentary is pretty generic and Lambert almost puts you to sleep just moments into his observations. This ending is much less climactic than what was included in the final product and was wisely left on the cutting room floor. A nice addition, but nothing overly impressive.
Finishing off the disc are some Special Trailers including a “Bulletproof Monk Soundtrack Spot”, a “Bulletproof Monk Game Trailer”, a “Great Escape Game Trailer”, and a “Theatrical Trailer”; a Behind-The-Scenes Photo Gallery that contains 20 or so still photos from the screen and from the set; and finally, some more trailers under Other Great MGM Releases for MGM Means Great Movies, Bond Special Edition DVD, Dead Like Me (TV Trailer), Out Of Time, Die Another Day, Terminator: Special Edition, Dark Blue, and Agent Cody Banks.
Bulletproof Monk is hard to recommend sight unseen, as the film can’t seem to decide whether or not to take itself seriously or not. It does a very schizophrenic job of doddering back and forth between overt seriousness and almost slapstick comedy and it leaves viewers slightly confused as to how to take it all in. All that being said, if a film features Chow Yun-Fat playing opposite Stifler, you should already have a good idea of what to expect going in.
As far as the DVD is concerned, it’s definitely not the cream of MGM’s crop, but definitely above average as far as the rest of the field is concerned. Don’t get me wrong though – both transfers are definitely good enough to pacify hardcore fans and neither the audio nor video exhibited any major flaws whatsoever. The supplements for the film were interesting and generally entertaining, but I would reserve a purchase only for hardcore fans of the film or its stars.