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The Replacement Killers Reviews

Lushly beautiful and built around the larger-than-life persona of soulful Chinese star Chow Yun-Fat, in his U.S. debut, this melodramatic action opera is a lurid love letter to the guns and poses aesthetic of Hong Kong action cinema. Reluctant hit man John Lee (Chow) is indebted to ruthless crime lord Mr. Wei (Kenneth Tsang) for the safety of his mother and sister back home. After Wei's hot-headed son is shot by detective Stan Zedkov (Michael Rooker), Wei orders Lee to murder Zedkov's 7-year-old in retaliation. His conscience working in overdrive, Lee tries to get false documents from tough high-tech forger Meg Coburn (a grievously miscast Mira Sorvino) so he can flee to Hong Kong. But Wei has already ordered up a fresh set of unconflicted assassins (Til Schweiger and Danny Trejo) and sent his henchman to kill Lee, along with anyone who gets in the way. Sure, the title is lame, and longtime fans of Hong Kong cinema will recognize the stylized look and intense strain of romantic nihilism as pure John Woo circa THE KILLER. But since Woo acted as executive producer, you can't really accuse music video-trained director Antoine Fuqua of ripping him off -- more like continuing a tradition. Fuqua appears unable to compose an unattractive shot and regularly trains his lens on the lanky Chow, who wears clothes as though to the runway born and strikes a two-gun salute with astonishing grace. Chow's English-language dialogue has been kept to a judicious minimum, allowing his softly expressive face to do most of the work.