Monday, January 14, 2013

Capsule Film Reviews: The Replacement Killers

The Replacement Killers, 1998, Columbia, directed by Antoine Fuqua, written by Ken Sanzel, Columbia DVD, 2:35:1

The Replacement Killers, I am told, is somewhat of a remake of director John Woo's John Pierre Melville and Martin Scorcese influenced The Killer, which also starred Chow Yun-Fat as an honourable hitman. The Replacement Killers, executive produced rather than directed by Woo and directed by a first timer whose previous work had been in commercials, is Chow Yun-Fat's Hollywood debut and the makers of the film, who wanted to make Fat a Hollywood star, apparently thought it would be good if they put the Hong Kong megastar in familiar film territory, the action adventure film.

Hollywood may have given us yet another one of their remakes with The Replacement Killers, The Replacement Killers, however, is a Hollywood remake with a difference. Following the Jackie Chan, another Hong Kong action star who made some noise in Hollywood in the mid and late 1990s, though with the comedy and martial arts of Chan's American films toned down, The Replacement Killers was Hollywood's latest attempt to do a east meet west, Hong Kong meets Hollywood, Hong Kong action adventure meets Hollywood action adventure, Hollywood's updated take on its Westerns, a connection co-star Mira Sorvino makes in an interview for the HBO promo for the film, and Chinese boy meets American girl, film. Fat plays John an honourable assassin who has been forced by Chinese crime boss baddy Wei to kill three people for him in order to save his own, his mother's, and his sister's life. Academy award winning actor Mira Sorvina plays Meg an American girl who makes fake documents for those on the seedy side of life who need to disappear. When John cannot kill his final mark, the 7 year old son of a cop as his father "Zeedo" (Michael Rooker) holds him in his arms, he goes to Meg to get a false passport so he can go back to China to save his mother and sister from the evil Wei. Wei, when he learns John hasn't carried out his final obligation to him, wants John dead along with the cop who has killed his criminal son in the line of duty. So Wei sends hitman after hitman after hitman, the replacement killers of the title, after John and Meg, who gets caught in the middle of Wei's payback, and the "Zeedo". John and Meg are shot at, beaten, betrayed, and chased by the cops. But again and again they live to fight for another day after day after day. And fight they do. They save "Zeedo" and his son, from Wei's assassins, and they kill Wei and his gang in a massive shootout at the Chinatown Corral. Grateful Zeedo allows John and Meg to escape but only after he takes their guns. The Replacement Killers ends with John and Meg parting in such sweet sorrow at the aeropot, our buddies have bonded as they almost always do in films like this you see, as John returns to China to rescue his family.

Mira Sorvino commented in an interview to promote The Replacement Killers that she felt like a ten year old kid playing Meg with all her gun and fighting prowess in the film. The Replacement Killers has everything, one presumes, a ten year old male and his teen and early twenty something counterparts would want. There's lots of gun fights. There's lots of Chow Yun-Fat twirling and swirling. There's lot of things being blown up. There's a lot of broken glass. There's a loud driving soundtrack. There's a lot of cars and some high speed car chases. There's lots of pregnant looks. There's a lot of that tried and true contemporary Hollywood "style" of bright neon purple, blue, and red lights, a lot of commercial and MTVish camera movement, and a lot of commercial and MTVish cutting and editing. What else would you expect? And there's a little bit of strutting of Sorvino strutting around in short skirts and bra.

The Replacement Killers is good for what it is, a high adrenaline action adventure flick. Everyone tells me that The Killer is a far better film. But since I have never seen The Killer and can't compare the two I can only say that I found The Replacement Killers a decent enough replacement and a decent enough way to spend 90 plus minutes or so. Two and a half to three stars. The film, by the way, didn't make Fat the star Hollywood hoped he would become. It took in only $5 million dollars more worldwide than its $30 million dollar budget.

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