The Replacement Killers
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Details At A Glance
||Yes, 1 - 1.78:1, non-16x9 Enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1
||Yes, 1 - Dolby Digital City (finally in Dolby Digital 5.1)
Cast & Crew
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio
||English (Dolby Digital 2.0 ,
English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384Kb/s)
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio
|Annoying Product Placement
|Action In or After Credits
The Replacement Killers, depending on
how you look at it, can be seen in a few ways. One is that it is a very
expensive exercise in kissing your own butt, as the fact that John Woo
aided in the financing of this picture would suggest. Another is that
Woo simply decided to give Antoine Fuqua, a man he probably saw
a great deal of potential in as a director, a break in the world of action
films. Either way, the premise is much more clever than what we are typically
used to seeing in an action film, a Woo trademark if there ever was. The
plot concerns a policeman by the name of Stan Zedkov (Michael Rooker),
who, during a drug raid, kills the son of Terence Wei (Kenneth Tsang)
in self-defence. Naturally, Wei is less than happy about this, and enlists
the services of John Lee (Chow Yun-Fat). Now, the way this works
is a little odd, but central to the film. Essentially, Lee is obligated
to perform tasks of this nature for Wei in exchange for the safety of himself
and his loved ones. As Wei eloquently states, when this latest task of
vengeance is completed, Lee's obligation to him is over. However, the assignment
is so reprehensible in nature that Lee finds he would rather brave Wei's
anger than go through with it. To say anything more about it would spoil
the surprise of the picture, although the theatrical trailer does a good
job of this already. What is important to know is that Lee's desire to
flee the country takes him to Meg Coburn (Mira Sorvino), a woman
who can forge the necessary documents for him to flee to China. Of course,
she soon becomes embroiled in his adventures as a result.
As a bonus, the film includes some wonderful bit
performances from the likes of Danny Trejo, who is rapidly becoming
my favourite action star because of his believability in roles such as
this. His other credits include From
Dusk Till Dawn, Desperado,
and Heat, for those of you who
have no idea who I am talking about. In any case, his performance as Collins,
one of the professional assassins called in to replace and exterminate
Lee, injects some small amount of personality into the otherwise ordinary
antagonists. Kenneth Tsang is suitably disagreeable as the vengeance-obssessed
Terence Wei, with his wooden performance lending a nice touch to the film.
Sadly, Jürgen Prochnow's awesome presence is really wasted
in this movie, with not the slightest hint of any development given to
his character (but what do you expect from a film of this kind and length?).
However, the real stars of the show are the billions of bullets the characters
shoot at each other, and they never disappoint.
As is often the case with Columbia Tristar discs, we
have an excellent transfer with very little to complain about. The transfer
is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, with 16x9 enhancement. Overall,
this is a very dark movie, with around three quarters of the action taking
place in the dark. Most of the climactic scenes, in fact, take place in
almost total darkness. Shadow detail was generally very good, but a couple
of scenes tended towards being a little too dark and undetailed for their
own good, especially during the gun battle outside the cinema. No low-level
noise was apparent in the transfer, which is especially nice given how
many opportunities presented themselves for this to appear. Colour saturation
was absolutely spot-on, especially during shots with unusual lighting schemes.
MPEG artefacts were happily absent from the film.
Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some rather vague aliasing that was
hard to notice at the worst of times. Film artefacts were non-existent.
This is definitely one of the better transfers I have seen of such a fast-paced
action film. However, one can't help but think that RSDL formatting could
have resulted in a slightly better transfer, and thus the elimination of
the need for varying the transfer rate so much.
Three audio tracks are included with this disc: English
in a choice of Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround encoding, or Dolby Digital
5.1, and French in Dolby Digital 5.1, which is unusual given that foreign
languages aren't usually encoded with as many channels as the original
dialogue. For some reason or another , the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack
is flagged as the default instead of the 5.1 soundtrack. Because I have
little interest in French as a language, I chose to listen to both English
soundtracks. The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack has a compressed, cluttered
feel to it, but the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is a work of art. Dialogue
was easy to follow, except for some of Chow Yun-Fat's lines, due
to his accent. Audio sync was never a problem, although it would have lent
a certain authentic touch to the film if it were.
The score music by Harry Gregson-Williams was
frequently present. It had style, grace, and power, although it lacked
the one ingredient that I always look for: thematic relevance to the characters.
However, given that this is a short-and-sweet action film, the music is
just perfect for our purposes.
The surround channels got a workout during the action
sequences, of which there are many. Very few ambient sounds were present
at other points in the film. The subwoofer got a regular workout supporting
the constant stream of gunshots and explosions. It was also used to support
the music. Overall, this is a very enveloping soundtrack as action movies
The extras are very limited, which is probably why the
disc is encoded onto a single layer. It is worth noting that the Dolby
Digital City trailer is actually encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 for a change.
The menu is presented without any audio or 16x9 enhancement.
It is functional, but almost devoid of features.
This is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with
16x9 enhancement. It is one of the few theatrical trailers to feature Dolby
Digital 5.1 sound.
Filmographies for Chow Yun-Fat,
Jürgen Prochnow, and Michael Rooker are provided. No
biographical notes are provided, which limits the level of interest this
R4 vs R1
The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;
Unless you honestly cannot live without a five-minute
making-of for a simple action movie, I would not consider this film particularly
worthy of importing.
A five-minute behind-the-scenes Featurette
The Replacement Killers is definitely
one of the better action movies available on DVD, and it is no slouch in
the presentation area.
The video quality is very good, save for some very
The audio quality is excellent.
The extras are extremely limited.
© Dean McIntosh
February 12, 2000
||Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109,
using S-video output
||Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using
composite and S-video inputs
||Built In (Amplifier)
||Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back
Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer