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The Replacement Killers: Special Edition

When mysterious assassin John Lee (Chow Yun Fat) reneges on his final assignment for a powerful Chinatown mobster, he's forced to return to China and needs a passport — fast. Enter Meg Coburn (Mira Sorvino), a passport forger who works under the radar but has a reputation for being a pain in the ass. But when the steely eyed Lee shows up at Meg's, hit men arrive moments later, forcing the duo to go on the run as reluctant partners. Bad movies are like murder mysteries — it's tempting to constantly guess who's to blame. And with The Replacement Killers (1998), one jumps from suspect to suspect. Was it the Hong Kong superstar Chow Yun-Fat's fault that his first American movie was so inept? Since Chow is the best thing in the picture it's hard to blame him at all, even if the film doesn't allow his relaxed sense of humor to come into play. How about Mira Sorvino, whose character transforms from tough-as-nails to sympathetic to heroic, much like the clichéd hooker with the heart of gold? As unpleasant as she is in the movie, it's doubtful anyone could have done much better. Was it editor Jay Cassidy or cinematographer Peter Collister, who gave the John Woo-derivative action scenes a Bruckheimer-like flatness that killed all the fun? Perhaps it was screenwriter Ken Sanzel and his banal script? Many can be implicated. But in this case, it seems best to blame director Antoine Fuqua, who has since blossomed into a better director with Training Day (2001). Here he spends too much time stating the obvious by trying to make Chow Yun-Fat look cool (Earth to Antoine — he already is). Fuqua also apes not just Woo, but also Luc Besson, although he forgets what makes their movies so much fun. Still, if you're feeling brain-dead, this is an 88-minute movie with seven large action sequences, and Chow is fun to watch no matter what the director or language. Columbia TriStar's The Replacement Killers: Special Edition, which replaces the original DVD, offers the original anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The previous pan-and-scan version has been deleted, and new extras include a commentary by Fuqua (who shoots himself in the foot early on by saying that after seeing Woo's The Killer he wanted to remake it), a 20-minute featurette on the cool of Chow Yun-Fat, and five extended/deleted scenes. Returning from the original disc is a 10-minute HBO featurette, trailers, and talent files. Keep-case.
—DSH



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