A hitman named John Lee (Yun-Fat Chow) is hired by a drug lord to murder an unknown person. During the assassination, John hesitates and walks away from completing the kill. His reasons for not completing the job that he was hired to do is unknown at this moment. But with the hit incomplete, John is now being hunted by many “Replacement Killers”. To escape the bounty on his head, John needs to escape from China. He is recommended to seek the assistance of Meg Coburn (Mira Sorvino) who can create fake passports and fake documents. Soon both John and Meg are on the run, fighting for survival and working together.
The film’s opening and character setup is vague. We witness our leading hitman walk into a club and watch him conduct a kill as well as escaping perfectly. From this scene, it isn’t long until we see John get his new contract. Other than that, there is no real setup to John as a character. How did he become a trained killer? Or how did he end up working for a drug lord? These are just some of the unknown questions audiences will have at the start of the film. The same type of setup is also given later to Meg- it’s quick and brief.
If you ever want to witness what an action film was like in the 90s, The Replacement Killers is a prime example. Slow-motion shooting, calm faces while firing bullets from a gun and my favourite, slow-motion head-turning (sometimes with waving hair too). The action here is rather enjoyable, and some moments are over the top, but I’m guilty to say I find this film’s act rather entertaining. Watching John lie down and roll on a flat mechanic’s chair while shooting bad guys in an active car wash is a pure example as to what I’m talking about.
The audio track is brilliant. I watched this film on Blu-ray, released by Shock Entertainment in Australia. To my surprise, there is no new high-resolution audio track but simply what appears to be the original Dolby Digital surround track. At first glance, I found this information disappointing, but the soundtrack on Blu-ray is still first satisfying just the way it is.
The film’s visual tones are rather dark. There’s nothing particularly bright and stunning when it comes to visuals here, but this overall tone does also match the film’s gritty look and the 90s action vibe.
As for performances, both leading actors Chow Yun-Fat & Mira Sorvino are generally positive, but I can’t deny the two do have some dull moments. Along with the lack of the setup for each character, this combination hurts the film greatly. At times and in certain situations, many audiences won’t care about what happens to the leads. Supporting actors Michael Rooker and Danny Trejo were a nice touch to see in the film, and I forgot they were in it as I last watched this film in the 90s.
Overall, The Replacement Killers is a guilty pleasure film from the 90s. I enjoyed the film’s basic plot, and I’m a sucker for the brainless action along the way. In the end, I just wish this film had more going on with its leading characters. With poor character setup for both leads and many moments of weak interaction, it can feel bland at times. Thankfully I had more of a positive experience while re-watching this release on Blu-ray compared to when I first viewed this film on DVD back in 1998. If you’ve never seen this film, it’s worth a look; however, the Blu-ray can be slightly challenging to track down from Australian retailers.
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Review Written by Peter Walkden