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Replacement Killers, The Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 November 2007

Image Former music video helmer Antoine Fuqua’s (“Training Day”, “King Arthur”) feature-length directorial bow was supposed to introduce Hong Kong action cinema to American audiences. Asian superstar Chow Yun Fat made his American debut, and Oscar winner Mira Sorvino came on to give the production some extra credibility. The result is more of a glossed over regurgitation than an homage. Failing to capture the high octane originality of its predecessors, “The Killers” and “A Better Tomorrow”, “The Replacement Killers” simply defines all Hollywood stereotypes: take a successful existing product and either imitate or remake it.

Screenwriter Ken Sanzel recycles the character Chow Yun Fat made a career playing in Honk Kong, and flattens it out into a one-dimensional hitman-for-hire with a conscience. I would say two dimensional, but Chow Yun Fat’s English is so limited, the dialogue is kept to a minimum. This leaves Fat to do his best, “I’m so smooth I don’t even speak” routine for two endless hours. Think Charles Bronson, but better looking and 95% mute. Mira Sorvino hardly complements the cast as she is reduced to gratuitous butt shots and cheesy one liners.

Chow Yun Fat plays John Lee, a hired gun in the city of Manhattan, looking to exit the business all together. But first he must complete one more job for crime boss Terence Wei (Kenneth Tsang): murder the seven year old child of the cop (Michael Rooker) that killed Wei’s son during a recent drug bust. In highly predictable fashion, Lee gets the boy in his sights, but has a crisis of conscience. Failing to complete a job for Wei means that Lee himself, as well as his family in Shanghai, will now be at the top of the crime boss’ hit list. In order to get back to Shanghai, Lee must obtain an illegal passport. This leads him to Meg Coburn (Mira Sorvino), document forger extraordinaire. Before she can finish the job, Wei’s men close in where the parade of bullets and explosions begin.

The saddest part about “The Replacement Killers” is that it’s barely even entertaining on a low-brow action level. Highly stylized gun battles take place in a slew of ridiculous locations including a car wash, an arcade and an old theater screening vintage cartoons. The problem is there’s hardly a shred of story to thread together the violence. The result is an inability to differentiate any of the scenes, which seem to be one huge mish-mash of gun blasts and music video style photography. Not even hardcore fans of the genre could love this creative failure.

“The Replacement Killers” was released in 1998, and given its age, looks pretty good for a catalogue title. The film has a slight grainy appearance that’s inherent to the source, with deep rich blacks and bright contrast. Color saturation seems to be spot on with accurate flesh tones. Detail and sharpness are exceptionally high, but the transfer still gives the movie an older appearance. While I didn’t spot any obvious scratches or dust, this release definitely doesn’t hold up to other stellar catalogue titles that look like they were shot last year. With some noticeable edge enhancement and noise, this is still a good transfer, just not great.

Things get a little better in the sound department with an uncompressed PCM 5.1 surround track. Surrounds are constantly busy with bullets being fired in every direction, and the subwoofer gets a great workout with explosions aplenty. If you can handle two straight hours of this sort of action, this is a good flick to test your sound system.

The special features are easily the low point of the disc with only two lame featurettes. One is standard EPK fluff, while the other is a twenty-minute yak fest with everyone talking about how cool Chow Yun Fat is. You get the point in less than 30 seconds. The rest is just a waste of life. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Sporting a solid transfer and great sound, this is definitely an upgrade over the most recent standard DVD release. Hardcore fans will not be disappointed. Action fans, give it a rent first. For everyone else, avoid at all costs.

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