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Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Mira Sorvino, Michael Rooker
Kenneth Sanzel Synopsis:
A troubled hitman seeks aid from a forger to help him get papers to China but a drug lord has hired replacements to finish the job and kill the hitman.

Box Office:
$30 million.
Opening Weekend:
$8,046,553 on 1936 screens.
Domestic Gross:

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English PCM 5.1
English Dolby 5.1
Italian PCM 5.1
Italian Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Hungarian Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 96 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 9/11/2007

• “Where the Action Is” Featurette
• “Chow Yun-Fat Goes Hollywood” Featurette
• Trailers


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-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


The Replacement Killers [Blu-Ray] (1998)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 25, 2021)

The 1990s marked the growing influence of Hong Kong cinema in Hollywood. A decade prior, folks like John Woo and Jackie Chan were essentially unknown to most people in the US, as they boasted good cult audiences but hadn’t even remotely entered the mass consciousness.

However, things changed radically over that time and by the late 1990s, we almost got to the point where the Hong Kong style became oversaturated. Every movie that wanted to seem “hip” went for that HK vibe, such as the disaster that was 2001’s The Musketeer, a flick that mindlessly used martial arts styles for no reason other than add that fashionable element.

Still, most of the movement seemed positive, as the increasing popularity of Asian cinema helped make Hollywood more diverse. Woo and Chan turned into major players, and the success of 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon showed that audiences accepted subtitled action flicks.

Not all of the big figures from Hong Kong made the transition, though not for a lack of trying. Chow Yun-Fat, one of Woo’s favorite actors, created a nice impression in Tiger, but he didn’t experience similar success in his English-language affairs.

Probably the biggest disappointment came from his big-budget Jodie Foster vehicle Anna and the King. While not a bad little flick, it failed to become a hit. The film was a stretch for Chow’s public image, as he departed from the standard action milieu and went for a romantic drama.

For his initial foray into the world of American movies, Chow took the more tried and true path. Unfortunately for him, 1998’s The Replacement Killers did little to establish him as a star, and for good reason: it’s a pretty bland film. Though almost a carbon copy of some of his Hong Kong fare, Killers fails to capture any magic.

At the start of Killers, we meet John Lee (Chow), a hired assassin who deftly takes out a target. For personal reasons, he owes a debt to crime boss Wei (Kenneth Tsang) and has to complete one more job before the bill is paid. However, for reasons we learn later, Lee literally refuses to pull the trigger and he skips this assignment.

One can’t simply say “no” to someone like Mr. Wei, so Lee quickly tries to skip town. He needs a fake passport, so he gets referred to Meg Coburn (Mira Sorvino), forger extraordinaire. All seems to go well until Wei’s forces locate the pair and go in for the kill.

Of course, they fail on their initial attempts, for if they didn’t, Killers would end pretty quickly. The rest of the film follows the attempts of Lee and Meg to escape their clutches and also to halt the murder that Lee avoided. Hence, they need to derail the titular replacement killers and also finally take care of Wei.

At its heart, Killers features a pretty compelling story, as it’s an intriguing notion to consider an assassin pursued by assassins. While not tremendously original, it still has some strengths that could have allowed the film to flourish.

Unfortunately, Killers offers a serious example of style over substance. Led by first-time feature director Antoine Fuqua, his roots as the creator of music videos and commercials seem glaringly obvious. The entire movie seems excessively stylized and flashy as it favors looks over brains.

Of course, I’m not opposed to slick visuals. However, Fuqua lacks the substance to make the movie work even on a superficial level.

To be sure, Killers looks good, but virtually all of the flash shows no purpose. The action sequences fail to provide an impact because they’re so artificially stylish and glossy.

Frankly, the action seems gratuitous and pointless for the most part, and it helps accentuate the flat and generic nature of the characters. The Replacement Killers has more than a few solid performers, but they never get much to do here other than shoot and dive. To be frank, Killers isn’t a terrible movie, but it feels surprisingly dull and comes across as a missed opportunity.

Speaking of which, Killers featured actors Danny Trejo and Jurgen Prochnow, so expect no product placement for Clearasil. All we needed were parts for Robert Davi and Edward James Olmos and Killers would enter the Bad Complexion Hall of Fame.

The Disc Grades: Picture C / Audio B+ / Bonus C-

The Replacement Killers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Created in the format’s early days, this became a blah presentation.

The biggest issue here stemmed from processing choices, as Killers suffered from both some prominent edge haloes as well as noise reduction. The grain removal left the image with a mushy feel at times, one that got countered by the boosted artificial sharpness. As a result, the movie could seem off, as it appeared both too soft and too sharp at the same time.

For the most part, the rest of the presentation worked fine. At least I saw no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and print flaws failed to create distractions.

Killers opted for a highly stylized palette, one that usually favored amber/sepia, though it threw in some blues, greens and reds as well. These hues didn’t dazzle, but they usually came across with reasonable clarity.

Blacks felt fairly deep, and low-light shots offered mostly positive delineation. Without the edge haloes and noise reduction, this would’ve turned into a more than decent image, but as it stood, the end result felt flawed.

Matters improved with the aggressive PCM 5.1 soundtrack of The Replacement Killers. This was a very active affair that kept all five channels working through the majority of the movie. Music showed good stereo imaging and the track provided a nice sense of general ambience.

Of course, various action scenes used the spectrum the best. These managed to place gunfire and other elements in the right places and blended them well.

Audio quality appeared solid, as speech was always natural and warm, and I noticed no problems related to intelligibility or edginess. Music sounded bright and dynamic, with clear highs and rich lows.

Effects seemed clean and accurate, as they showed no signs of distortion and also displayed solid bass response that was appropriately defined but not overly boomy. Ultimately, I thought this turned into a solid mix.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD from 2003? Audio worked better, as the PCM mix showed better localization and warmer tones than the DVD’s lossy audio did.

As for visuals, they looked tighter and more vivid. The DVD was good for its format – and the BD seems blah for its - but this still showed a moderate step up in quality.

Note that the Blu-ray only includes a 96-minute Extended Cut of Killers and lacks the 88-minute theatrical cut. It appears to mostly fold in the deleted scenes from the 2003 Special Edition DVD.

Those largely just elongated existing sequences. The “Extended Cut” adds a bit of new information but it fails to alter the movie in a notable manner, whether for better or for worse.

The Blu-ray duplicates some of the DVD’s extras, and we start with an HBO “Making-Of” special called Where the Action Is. This 10-minute, nine-second featurette offers info from executive producer Matt Baer, director Antoine Fuqua, and actors Chow Yun-Fat and Mira Sorvino.

If you expect much more than the standard promotional fare, you’ll depart disappointed. The program shows lots of material from the movie and touts it, though the hype factor seems somewhat subdued, so it’s not as strident as many similar pieces. It includes a smidgen of useful data, but for the most part it seems pretty bland.

Next we discover a 20-minute, 27-second featurette entitled Chow Yun-Fat Goes Hollywood. “Hollywood” feels like an extension of the HBO piece, as the format seems very similar, and the level of depth remains consistent.

We get more from 1998 interviews with Chow and Sorvino as well as newer snippets from Fuqua, Baer, executive producer Terence Chang, director James Foley (who helmed Chow’s second American flick, 1999’s The Corruptor), Ed Baker of LA’s Cinefile Video, and Erik Nakamura, editor of Giant Robot magazine.

Despite the additional length and higher number of participants, “Hollywood” appears just as superficial as the HBO program. I thought it would offer a nice look at Chow’s adjustment to American movies, but instead it’s little more than a puff piece.

We learn a) how talented Chow is, and b) how nice Chow is. I don’t doubt that he’s both nice and talented, but I didn’t need 20 minutes of this show to tell me so. As such, this program seems eminently avoidable.

Under Trailers, we find promos for Hostel, Paprika and Vacancy. No trailer for Killers appears here.

Note that the Blu-ray loses a Fuqua audio commentary from the DVD as well as deleted scenes. As noted, the latter apparently got wrapped into the “Extended Cut” found here, but the commentary goes completely MIA. I assume it also was a casualty of the longer version of the film, as the theatrical cut’s commentary wouldn’t work alongside the extended movie – and Fuqua probably didn’t want to record a new one.

As a movie, The Replacement Killers provides a flashy but fairly dull piece of work. The glitzy visuals never add up to much real excitement, and the film’s good cast can’t compensate for these concerns. The Blu-ray brings excellent audio along with erratic visuals and minor bonus materials. This becomes a spotty release for a mediocre movie.

To rate this film visit the DVD review of REPLACEMENT KILLERS

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