The Action Mutant…
says raves are acceptable when Chow Yun-Fat is involved.
The Replacement Killers
review by Joe Burrows
Chan. Li. Lee. An assload of others. These people have had their troubles making it into the popular consciousness of American cinema. Even the Fat man! No, not Sammo Hung (although he’s on the list too). No, I mean Chow Yun-Fat, who wasn’t always making his name in art house martial arts flicks or playing the King of Siam. Seriously, the quote on the box art should read “Chow Yun-Fat is already a legend everywhere else, except in America, where $100 million CGI robots are our legends and Burt Reynolds is on number 5 of his 9 comebacks! We don’t have any time for fucking Asians with guns, even though we’re Rolling Stone and we told you its cool already” Reality is a bitch. (Note: This review is on the 98 minute “extended cut” and not on the original, 86 minute theater cut.)
The Plot, as it was:
Our man Chow is John Lee (wow, that name must have been long into the development process), an assassin who balks on doing a hit for mob boss Terrence Wei (Ken Tsang). Knowing he will be on the run soon (and that Wei will target his family back in China), he gets a foxy forger named Meg Coburn (Mira Sorvino) to cook up some documents for him to get back home. However, word catches fast and soon both are chased by the mob. Secrets get revealed, plenty of people die and Danny Trejo (as one of the “replacement killers” sent to finish the job) shows up. And Robert Rodriguez is nowhere is sight.
Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Though sometimes lacking the snap of a John Woo film (he co-produced here; Antoine Fuqua of Training Day gets the directorial chair), The Replacement Killers has the feel and some of the emotional connection of Woo’s earlier efforts. From the kick ass rave opening on, there is plenty of action and verve to spare though many people will say that it does seem to lack something. For a freshman starring outing in America, Yun-Fat almost seems dialed down. He only gets a scene or two to really emote like he did in Hard Boiled or The Killer and the rest is him strolling about and looking badass. Sure, it works but anyone looking for more will be hard stretched to find it. He definitely isn’t getting paid by the word (Charles Bronson-san?). Sorvino balances things out by adding punch and characterization to what is usually a thankless job of being the female sidekick (not to mention looking damn fine in the process…whoo!). Admittedly, it does seem like Beginner’s Woo 101 half the time, as if Fuqua is just following the sequence of “setup—gunfight—setup—gunfight—setup—dialogue—more gunfight”. However, if the viewer can accept it being nothing more than a very slick, deluxe time killer (and that Michael Rooker is a GOOD cop), then they will get more bang for their buck with this outing.
Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- Al Leong (Rapid Fire, Lethal Weapon) is unbilled as a gunman during the final shootout. Blink and you’ll miss him, as they say.
Body Count/Violence: 35. As the venerable Clarence Boddicker said in Robocop, “Ooooh! Guns, guns, GUNS!” And there are tons of those! This is supposed to hold the American record for most bullets fired in a film and I wouldn’t doubt that. Everyone is done in by some measure of bloody gunfire but not before about 1,000 casings get emptied in the effort. Along the way, there are explosions, some fists and Chow breaking from stride by snapping a guy’s neck. And no, he didn’t shoot him 75 times afterwards (…odd).
Sexuality/Nudity: Mira Sorvino. I know she doesn’t get naked at all but her presence alone is enough to garner some mention. She’s shown in a black bra and panties while changing in one scene and the rest of the film has her in some loose fitting outfit with lingerie visible at most times. What else can you say about her body? Oh yeah, that she didn’t get her looks from her father.
Language/Dialogue: Not terribly strong, though it goes with the R rating.
How bad was it?:
Most critics were disappointed, especially those aware of Yun-Fat’s status in his homeland. The concerns ranged from it being all action and not much else to the star not getting much to work with. There were some positive reviews but none were overly gushing.
Did it make the studio’s day?:
Made on a $30 million budget, The Replacement Killers did little to bolster Chow Yun-Fat’s rep in America. Columbia released it in theaters on 2/6/98 and it met the fate of so many other films in the weeks previous; it was run over by “that damn boat movie”. It finished 2nd to Titanic in its opening weekend, only pulling in $8 million (to the former’s $23 million that weekend alone). Facing more competition from The Wedding Singer the following weekend, Killers quietly sank off the charts and only pulled in $19.2 million in its total run. Not a great distinction to be called the 90th highest grossing film of 1998, that’s for certain.
Entertainment value: ****1/2/*****
Copyright 2007 The Action Mutant.