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Replacement Killers - Extended Edition, The

Sony Pictures // R // April 25, 2006
List Price: $19.94 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Louis Howard | posted May 13, 2006 | E-mail the Author
Acclaimed Asian action hero Chow Yun-Fat stars here as John Lee, a hired assassin who at first accepts then backs out on a contract that would have him coldbloodedly murder the young son of a police officer. Realizing he and his own family will thus become hunted by other paid killers for showing such a slight to his mob boss employer, Lee speedily tracks down passport forger Meg Coburn (Mira Sorvino)to have counterfeit papers made, in order to get him home to China to protect his sister and nephew. Unfortunately for both of them they are ambushed while in the process and are forced to go on the run together in order to stay alive and somehow put order to the chaos Lee has created.

A 1997 film directed by Antoine Fuqua, this was an early attempt at Americanizing a formula already vastly popular in Asia- the Hong Kong style action film- and some degree of thought was put into implementing the idea; not only was Chinese superstar Yun-Fat brought in to head the cast of The Replacement Killers (his first American movie) they also had a place as coproducer reserved for John Woo, famed director/master of the Hong Kong action movie genre and the man who made Yun-Fat the focal point of several Asian action movies that had attained a respectable measure of cult status in the US.

I've read some less than flattering reviews on this film since its release and while I won't say it has classic written all over it, I did think it was a slick, well made first attempt at bringing Hong Kong style action films to the mass American market. Bringing in Chow Yun-Fat was an inspired decision and Faqua obviously went to great lengths to not only emulate Woo's brand of filmmaking but also utilized Yun-Fat in ways he was already renowned for abroad- the two gun stance and putting lots of lead in the air in an over the top fashion was something Woo practically taught Chow how to do. What Faqua wisely does is utilize what Yun-Fat had become renowned for in the framework of the entire movie. He also adds a sometimes stark blend of style and color, crafting some interesting eye candy for viewer to take in along the way.

The main reason to make this movie at all was to manufacture an American vehicle for Asian action star Chow Yun-Fat. His acting ability could be likened to an Asian Clint Eastwood- stoic with both good looks and granite features, Yun-Fat is capable of commanding the screen with a quiet presence all his own. It isn't difficult to see why he was a superstar overseas long before his debut domestically. Why this movie didn't wind up being something of a springboard for more like-tailored Yun-Fat films over the last 9 years is quizzical. It was certainly a solid blueprint for future American-made shoot-em'ups in the Woo/Yun-Fat tradition. Perhaps it simply wasn't the direction Chow wanted his career to take.

Where the idea of casting Mira Sorvino as the female lead came from I have no idea, but it too was a spot-on call- Sorvino was the right actress for the right job. Possessing a gorgeous face with a feminine yet strong, solid physical structure, she exudes a presence unafraid of creating a little wanton mayhem of her own. With other women making somewhat successful film careers by doing much the same (such as Milla Jovovich) I would love to see Sorvino in a few more roles like this.

The DVD-

As nearly as I can tell this is no less than the third DVD release of The Replacement Killers, each sporting different artwork.

Director's Cut Additional Scenes-

According to the cover this version includes 10 minutes of new footage; to be honest, I can't see 10 extra minutes of footage. Noticible for me was a somewhat longer opening sequence in Hong Kong lasting a few minutes and some new close up interplay between Yun-Fat and Sorvino in which the Lee character speaks of his father and changing politics in China, lasting about 3 minutes. There seems to be a slightly longer sequence involving Lee's hesitancy to pull the trigger on assassinating his child target. Its possible there are extended gunplay scenes, but they would be hard to distinguish from the previous version of the film.

A fellow DVDTalk member has made mention of the fact that an alternate ending included on the SE (second) DVD release of this movie in which Yun-Fat and Sorvino kiss has been left off the Extended Cut. As I only own the first edition and the third edition I was not aware of this.

Video-

Video presntation here is in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, supposedly digitally remastered. There is a hint of grain during the opening credits, but past that it is a clean transfer with a good degree of sharpness. Colors appear to be rich and well represented, while blacks are deep and solid.

Audio-

Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround; this is a fine track, making good use of surround channels for the incredible amount of gunfire and action present throughout the film as well as decent LFE use. While I would have preferred seeing a DTS option for a movie so dependent on action interplay, what we are given does the job very well.

Extras-

Making Of The Replacement Killers Clocking in at about 10 minutes this piece goes behind the scenes in typical HBO fashion giving the viewer some insight on making the film by several parties involved, including Fugua, Yun-Fat and Sorvino. Its an interesting piece worth taking a look at.

Chow-Yun Fat Goes Hollywood For me this was the best extra of the set and in fact one of the better documentaries I've seen. Clocking in at over 20 minutes,we are given insight into Yun-Fat's Asian career, how he came to gain superstardom overseas as an action hero and what steps were taken in bringing his unique persona to the US market. There are several solid minutes of one on one interplay with Chow who comes across quite unlike his man of steel onscreen characters; warm, friendly, self confident yet more than a little humble, Yun-Fat seems quite deserving of whatever successes come his way. He is spoken of in both gushing and reverent terms by any number of coworkers on The Replacement Killers, from director Antoine Fuqua down to janitors taking care of the set. If you're at all interested in Yun-Fat's career this is a must watch.

Of note here is something that is becoming more and more the unfortunate norm when multiple editions of the same movie keep finding their way to the marketplace: this new edition leaves off additional material found on previous releases. This time around, a director's commentary with Antoine Fuqua has been removed. So, this time around we get the "director's cut" but not the "director's commentary".....go figure.

Final Thoughts-

For the most part, The Replacement Killers succeeds as an early attempt to bring a Hong Kong style action film to American audiences. Chow Yun-Fat and Mira Sorvino give solid performances and actually have decent chemistry. Comparing the director's cut to previous DVD editions of this film is tricky; you're going to gain a few minutes of decent footage, but you lose a director's commentary track. If you already own the previous SE edition this probably won't be a worthwhile upgrade. If you don't own the movie yet, I would recommend it.
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