Turn Back the Clock
The Replacement Killers
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I was feeling the need for an action movie the other day and decided to search for one in my DVD collection. What I found was an oldie, but goodie – a film that hit theaters in 1998 and just happened to be renowned director Antoine Fuqua’s feature film directorial debut – a little film called The Replacement Killers.
The Replacement Killers stars Chow Yun-fat as John Lee, an assassin who works for crime boss Terence Wei (Kenneth Tsang). Lee has already killed two individuals for Wei, paying off a debt owed to the crime lord and keeping his mother and sister safe in China. Unfortunately, the third and final job is something the assassin cannot accept. Terence Wei has a score to settle with Police Detective Stan Zedkov (Michael Rooker), who killed his son Peter (Yau-Gene Chan) during a drug bust. Wei seeks to exact revenge through an eye-for-an-eye. He wants Lee to kill Zedkov’s seven-year-old son.
Realizing that he can’t kill an innocent boy, John asks local monk and friend Alan Chan (Randall Duk Kim) to keep his family in hiding in China until he can find his way to them. In the meantime, John must get together a phony passport so he can sneak into China unannounced. An acquaintance points him toward Meg Coburn (Mira Sorvino) for the job. Unfortunately, before she can complete the phony documents, Wei’s men attack at her office, leading to a shootout and Meg’s being taken in for questioning.
Hunting down John Lee falls in the hands of Wei’s Lieutenant Michael Kogan (Jürgen Prochnow) and the replacement killers he hires to get the job done (Til Schweiger and Danny Trejo). Lee tracks Coburn down after she is released from the police station and forces her to finish the job she started. As the two dodge death at the hands of Wei’s men, they become sympathetic towards one another and Meg offers to help stop Wei from killing Zedkov’s son before getting John to China to save his family from further retribution. Death seems certain…waiting for the unlikely duo around every corner. Can they survive long enough to save Zedkov’s son and John’s family from the vengeful Terence Wei?
There is some awesome action to be had in The Replacement Killers. I remember when I first saw this film and marveled at the fact that the movie was mostly shootouts and chases and I still loved it. Not one martial arts move to be had in the whole film and yet it had my attention from minute one. The characters are flawed, but the audience sympathizes with them after learning their stories. John and Meg are criminals, sure, but they have consciences and heart, endearing them to the audience.
Chow Yun-fat is awesome in this film. He is so cool, yet so complex – you can see the emotions in his eyes, even when he is trying to play it cool. And in action scenes – oh man, when John Lee busts out those guns, it’s like ballet. There’s no other way to describe the spin moves…the suit flaring out as he pulls yet another gun from some concealed place on his person. Amazing. Prior to this film, I had seen Mira Sorvino in Mimic and liked her in that, but in The Replacement Killers, she is so much more. This film shows she can be badass, a criminal with a do-gooder heart who can hang tough with the big guns. Jurgen Prochnow is despicable in his role as Wei’s second in command. Wei, himself, doesn’t say much, but Tsang portrays him as evil personified. You are happy to see these two get what they deserve. I didn’t remember that Danny Trejo was in this film until I watched it again, but man does that guy get around!
This movie has everything an action film fan wants in a movie – actors who know how to make action scenes look convincing enough to be believable, even when performing the impossible, camera angles that make each scene look awesome, hardcore music to accompany the action, hot-looking protagonists that still manage to look cool even when beat up and damaged, explosions, shootouts and more. The only thing missing from the film was a hook-up between John and Meg…the charisma was definitely there and you could just see it happen. I hear there is an actual kiss that takes place between the two in the extended cut of the film, but the emotion and drama in the film just begged for a bit more.
The Replacement Killers is an action film I can watch over and over again and still find something new to admire. Simply a great action classic that any action fan should have in his/her collection.