Shortly after the feisty Bad Girl has ditched pickpocket king Mr. Funktastic for the likeable Kar, she calls Kar “incredibly brave, but incredibly stupid at the same time. It’s an interesting mix.”

The same could be said for Bulletproof Monk, a dippy, fantasy-fu whirligig that, despite several impressive set pieces, never consistently hits the whoa-cool levels to which it aspires.

For starters, its cheap look is both laudable and a limitation. It’s obviously not a big-posturing blockbuster, but they might as well not have gone to the trouble of digitally removing the wires that allow the actors to fly. Plus, star Chow Yun-Fat turns fuzzier than a ripe peach whenever a low-rent computer effect is coming up. 

Thankfully, freshman director Paul Hunter can’t fuzz Yun-Fat’s poise and grace, which keeps the movie moving even during its more poorly filmed fight scenes. In honor of Yun-Fat’s Zen calm, let’s say, “Just because one has directed countless Mariah Carey videos does not mean one can film kung-fu.”

Even though Yun-Fat’s nameless titular monk is cooler than the other side of the pillow, he can still scrap. In the opening scene, his kung-fu prowess takes him to the Temple of Sublime Truth where he’s chosen to guard the Scroll of the Ultimate for the next 60 years by Monks of the Order of Dialogue-Heavy Exposition.

Said scroll will render whoever reads its words aloud powerful enough to create heaven or hell on Earth. No points for guessing what an angry Nazi (Karel Roden) raiding the temple wants. After an initial escape, where the monk shows the bulletproof is in the pudding, the film flashes forward.

Now in America, the monk is nearing the time when he must choose a successor. But he is taken aback by the potential candidate. Kar (Seann William Scott) is a wiseacre pickpocket who cribs what kung fu he knows from watching chop-socky Hong Kong cinema.

While the monk tries to drop his Tibetan science on Kar, he must evade the aged Nazi, now a wheelchair-bound psychopath who puts Dr. Strangelove’s nuttiness to shame and talks like Colonel Klink. (“Time is one think I’m runnink out of.”)

Also, there’s the mysterious Bad Girl, whose motives are unclear until the film’s third act. And, lest we forget, there’s Mr. Funktastic, a kilt-wearing Scotsman who should have more screen time solely because of his name.

With its effects, Bulletproof Monk namedrops other, better films — Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Matrix among the most recognizable. But it never establishes its own flourishes, unless you count every single action sequence taking place in an abandoned warehouse a flourish.

It has some thrilling moments, namely watching Yun-Fat waste two lackeys by kicking empty gun clips at them. The problem is that the movie sustains very little of the momentum it generates. Only a climactic battle between the monk and the Nazi achieves chop-socky lunacy missing in earlier scenes.

It’s worth a smile to watch Scott flying through the air and doing mid-air barrel rolls. It’s also good for a chuckle when the Nazi, who hides out in a human-rights organization office, bites the monk’s leg in desperation. But Bulletproof Monk isn’t quite, well, funktastic enough.