The Replacement Killers
Columbia, 1998, 88 min.
Stars: Chow Yun-Fat ("John Lee"), Mira Sorvino ("Meg Coburn"), Michael Rooker ("Zedkov"), Kenneth Tsang ("Terence Wei")
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Producers: Matthew Baer, Bernie Brillstein, Terence Chang, Christopher Godsick, Brad Grey, Michael McDonnell and John Woo
Writer: Ken Sanzel
Cinematographer: Peter Collister
Editor: Jay Cassidy
Available on video (full frame) from Columbia
Available on DVD from Columbia - a review can be found here
To go to the official The Replacement Killers site, click here
"Kill or be replaced."
John Lee (Chow) is a cold-blooded hitman whose refusal to kill a child puts him at the top of crime boss Terence Wei's (Tsang) hitlist. Enlisting the aid of a skilled forger (Sorvino), John must try and stop Terence before he kills John's family.
Okay, let's admit, we've all seen this "killer with a conscience" plot many times before, so the burning question is how well is it done? Well, it's actually pretty good. Though I didn't really like the film the first time I saw it, on repeated viewings, it does tend to grow on you... though first-time director Fuqua is no John Woo. He uses all of the elements compentently and the film has a nice visual style, but the action sequences are edited horribly. They're cut up much too fast (all the gunfights look like a music video) and we can never really linger on one element. Another sticky point is Mira Sorvino; for an Oscar winner, she delivers her lines so stiffly it's almost like she's making fun of Chow's speaking style (by the way, Chow's English is pretty good) and while she looks good running around with her shirt open, she really isn't that convincing as an action star. All in all, though, The Replacement Killers is an above-average action movie and a nice US debut for Chow Yun-Fat.
- This was Antoine Fuqua's first feature film; his previous experience was in music videos (including Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise").
- Mira Sorvino can actually speak Chinese; her major at Yale was Chinese Studies.
- Chow Yun-Fat could barely speak English before the movie was filmed; he took a six-month crash course in English before filming started (he actually did have a pretty major speech in the film, but it was left on the editing room floor).
- The CD "soundtrack" sold in stores is actually the score for the film, so it contains none of the techno music featured in the movie. The beginning music is "Keep Hope Alive" by The Crystal Method (from the LP Vegas) and the song that plays when Meg is getting dressed is Tricky's "Makes Me Wanna Die," off the Pre-Millenium Tension LP.
- Though John Woo was not directly involved with the filming of the movie, the action sequences were sent to him before their final edit. Woo didn't like the finished product: "The problem was the script: it was one-dimensional. I don't think they knew Chow Yun-Fat well. He's a great actor. They should have given him more drama" [from the June 2000 issue of "Premiere"].
- Chow said this on his move to Hollywood: "I wanted a new challenge. My manager [his wife, Jasmine] said 'You must go to Hollywood to explore the world'. For twenty years I've made movies in Hong Kong. I know that business. Why not try something new?" [from DVD booklet] and "You have to grab the golden egg and hold it, if you have a chance." Chow enjoyed his first US movie, saying that "Every day I went to the set, I was like a kid going to Disneyland. My agents and my manager picked this project for me. As my first English Language film, I do not think it is a difficult film for me to do" [above quotes from City on Fire © 1999 Verso Books].
- Screenwriter Ken Sanzel is a former NYPD officer.
- In a bit of irony, since he is known as a "god of guns", Chow was required to undergo two weeks of firearms training before shooting began for insurance purposes. He said "This is very good experience... the thing about [using] a gun here [Hollywood], you put a real bullet inside and then shoot it. Scary" [again from the DVD booklet].
- During the filming of the final shootout, Chow fired over 550 rounds of ammo per day. After one such day, the nerves in his hands were so bad that he shook uncontrollably and was forced by the on-set doctor to stop filming for a day. Chow obeyed the doctor's orders... to a point. He returned to the set twelve hours later instead of the prescribed twenty-four.
- Simon Yam (Chow's co-star in Full Contact) was offered the role of Mr. Wei, but turned it down because he thought the script was weak.
- The character of John Lee was originally white, but the studio had it changed after Chow was hired.
- Chow impressed the American crew with his work ethic. Between takes, he would help out the crew. If there was nothing for him to do, he would kill time by sweeping and cleaning up the set.
- During the shootout in the arcade, you can see posters from Hong Kong movies (such as Benny Chan's Big Bullet) on the walls.
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