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The Replacement Killers Review

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John Lee, an émigré to the US and a professional killer seeking redemption. His resultant refusal to carry out a revenge hit on the kiddie of a cop (Rooker) who has riled a merciless crimelord, results in mucho retributive mayhem

★★★★★

Hong Kong superstar Chow Yun-Fat makes his belated English-language debut, long anticipated by fans of his work with John Woo and Ringo Lam, in a violent thriller executive produced by Woo, written by an ex-cop (who maybe shouldn't have quit the job) and directed by music video stylist Fuqua.

Yun-Fat plays John Lee, an émigré to the US and a professional killer seeking redemption - like they do. He's dispassionate about executing errant mobsters, to be sure, but he's really a decent sort, who hangs out in a Buddhist temple being remorseful between assignments. His resultant refusal to carry out a revenge hit on the kiddie of a cop (Rooker) who has riled a merciless crimelord, results in mucho retributive mayhem.

Along the way Sorvino, unlikely but game as a multi-tattooed document forger very handy with a gun, becomes attached to Lee as sidekick and guide to the street world. Just what you needed when an army of Asian and Eurotrash hitmen are all over your ass. The shoot-'em-up specialities on the menu include the ever-popular Mexican stand-off, the two revolvers in hand whammy, ballistics orgies galore in a cinema, a games arcade, and even one nifty bit in a car wash, Yun-Fat sliding along the foamy floor through the twirly brushes.

In short, it's just like a spectacularly excessive and melodramatically daft Cantonese crime opus, but in English, with a thumpingly trendy soundtrack. You always know where you are with these flicks: the bad guys are really ugly, the cops are hopelessly inadequate, the body count of bystanders is indecent, the chick can more than hold her own in the heavy artillery department and the anti-hero is hilariously invincible bounding through hails of bullets that would bring down an elephant herd.

Striding gracefully through this noisy junk entertainment is the awesomely fab Yun-Fat, a Chinese Robert Mitchum, handsome, sexy and unfailingly cool, his suits impeccable after set pieces that would rumple James Bond. Seagal, Van Damme and co. are duly served notice and can collect their weapons on the way out; Yun-Fat's in town.

An excessive and melodramatically daft Cantonese crime opus, but in English, with a thumpingly trendy soundtrack but much less charm than the originals.