Combustible Celluloid
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With: Chow Yun-Fat, Mira Sorvino, Michael Rooker, Kenneth Tsang, Jurgen Prochnow, Til Schweiger, Danny Trejo, Clifton Collins Jr. (Clifton Gonzalez Gonzalez)
Written by: Ken Sanzel
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and for language
Language: English, Cantonese with English subtitles
Running Time: 87
Date: 01/12/1998

The Replacement Killers (1998)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Accept No Substitutes

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I've been a fan of Hong Kong actor Chow Yun Fat since I first saw him in John Woo's The Killer at the Red Vic in 1991. I've seen many of his movies since then, and have been looking forward to his American debut for some time now. It turns out he's so damn cool, he carries The Replacement Killers with no help at all from the screenwriter or the director. (He does have help from Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino, however, who acts her little heart out while wearing underwear and a leather jacket and little else.) The Replacement Killers is like a bad Humphrey Bogart or Cary Grant movie, where the actor(s) are the only thing worth watching. The director, Antoine Fuqua, came from music videos (Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise") and TV commercials. The best he could manage to do here was to rip off the John Woo and Ringo Lam movies, not to mention the rainy Blade Runner (even the score sounds Blade Runner-ish). The screenwriter was a former cop, who should have stayed a cop. If you're already a fan of Chow, The Replacement Killers is dumb fun, but everyone else should wait until something better comes along.

DVD Details: In 2006, Sony released an "extended cut," adding about 10 minutes back into the movie. (Aggravatingly, the two leads still don't get to kiss!) However, though I hadn't seen the film in 8 years and was unable to tell exactly what was new, the film did seem to play better. I chalk this up to three circumstances: 1) Director Antoine Fuqua isn't as bad as we thought (he went on to make Training Day). 2) Action movies have gotten worse in the years since, and the choppy/shaky factor has grown far more pronounced, so this one looks good by comparison. 3) At the time this seemed like an unworthy vehicle for a great star like Chow Yun-fat, but since his career has now sputtered, any Chow is better than no Chow. Otherwise, Sony has cleaned up the picture and sound and included a few extras that were already available on previous DVDs.

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