The Replacement Killers

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Details At A Glance

Category Action Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.78:1, non-16x9 Enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1
Rating Other Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - Dolby Digital City (finally in Dolby Digital 5.1)
Year Released 1997 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 84:03  Other Extras Cast Filmographies
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director Antoine Fuqua

Columbia Tristar
Starring Chow Yun-Fat
Mira Sorvino
Michael Rooker
Jürgen Prochnow
Carlos Gomez
Frank Medrano
Kenneth Tsang
Danny Trejo
Case Transparent Amaray
RRP $34.95 Music Harry Gregson-Williams
Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes 
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    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.

Transfer Quality


    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 go.


    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.

Theatrical Trailer

    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.

Cast Filmographies

    Filmographies for Chow Yun-Fat, Mira Sorvino, Jürgen Prochnow, and Michael Rooker are provided. No biographical notes are provided, which limits the level of interest this extra generates.

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.


    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 minor troubles.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The extras are extremely limited.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Dean McIntosh
February 12, 2000 
Review Equipment
DVD Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer