Mill Creek Entertainment | 1998 | 88 min | Rated R | Region A (B, C untested) | No Release Date
International superstar Chow Yun-Fat makes his Hollywood debut with Oscar winner Mira Sorvino in The Replacement Killers, a fierce and explosive action thriller from director Antoine Fuqua. After he betrays Mr. Wei, the ruthless...
Contrary to the package labeling, Mill Creek's double feature Blu-ray features the 88-minute
theatrical release of The Replacement Killers, not the 96-minute "extended cut" first seen on
video in 2006. This marks the first appearance on Blu-ray of the version of the film seen in
theaters in 1998—and that's a good thing. Although the extended cut added no new sequences or
entire scenes, it prolonged or altered numerous moments and substituted alternate takes. The
original cut was spare, swift and brutally efficient. Fans who have only seen the film in its longer
version may miss the occasional line or gesture, but they owe it to themselves to see how director
Antoine Fuqua's feature debut was originally assembled, reportedly amid much tension and
debate between Fuqua and the studio.
If for nothing else, The Replacement Killers would be notable as the Hollywood debut of Hong
Kong superstar Chow Yun-Fat, whose iconic status will always be inseparable from the films he
made with John Woo. Screenwriter Ken Sanzel, best known as a writer and producer of the TV
series Numb3rs, had written the script for Chazz Palminteri (with whom Sanzel proceeded to
make a similarly themed film called Scar City), but the story was retooled once Chow was cast.
The mafia became the Chinese mob, and the assassin hero became one of Chow's classic,
conflicted bad-guys-with-a-conscience, as in Woo's The Killer, which Fuqua had been looking to
remake. Because Chow was still learning English, his lines were kept to a minimum. This ended
up working to his advantage, because stillness and physical grace have always been among
Chow's most effective traits as a screen actor.
The editing process and audience testing streamlined the film even further, eliminating
significant backstory and all of the romantic relationship between Chow's heroic hitman and the
document forger played by Mira Sorvino, who took the part for the express purpose of joining
the vanguard of women in action roles that included Jennifer Garner (Alias) and Sarah Michelle
Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). The result played like an abbreviated version of one of Woo's
ballets of violence, with all of the emotions telegraphed in short bursts between elaborately
choreographed scenes of mayhem. Fans of Chow's previous work grasped the film's
relationships and motivations immediately, but the broader audience was unmoved, and the film
performed poorly at the box office. It found its fan base on home video.
Mill Creek has paired the film with 1997's Truth or Consequences, N.M., which is the best
known of the four films that Kiefer Sutherland directed during the long career before he became
permanently identified as 24's stalwart federal agent Jack Bauer. The script by Brad Mirman (best
known as the writer of Madonna's albatross, Body of
Evidence) bears the unmistakable stamp of
the Age of Tarantino in its tale of a heist by small-timers gone wrong, followed by flight,
squabbling, ineptitude and more bloodshed. But Mirman didn't have Tarantino's gift for tasty
dialogue of the kind that has routinely attracted extraordinary talent to his projects, even when he
was unknown. (Not that Mirman didn't try; the script is filled with chatter about such trivia as
mind-reading, fast food and blind dates, none of it memorable.) It was Sutherland's long-established roots in the movie industry that allowed him to
assemble a cast of the caliber that
could elevate Mirman's story into something watchable, including extended cameos by Rod
Steiger and Martin Sheen. If Sutherland gave himself the juiciest and most unhinged of the
characters, he at least ensured that he'd be counterbalanced by performers of equal (or even
greater) weight. Truth or Consequences, N.M. isn't a major film, but it is certainly one of the
better examples of the many neo-noirs inspired by the success of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp
If only for the theatrical cut of The Replacement Killers, making its Blu-ray debut in a good
presentation, this disc from Mill Creek would be a bargain. That it also includes a serviceable hi-def copy of Truth or Consequences, N.M.
makes the recommendation easy, especially at current