Killer Action In "Replacement Killers"

By Areon Ives

Director Antoine Fuqua's "The Replacement Killers" is a riveting action film in the tradition of John Woo's "Broken Arrow" and "Face/Off."

"Killers" features action superstar Chow Yun-Fat, veteran of 70 Hong Kong movies, in his Hollywood debut and Oscar-winner Mira Sorvino as his sidekick. One of the film's executive producers is John Woo, who worked with Yun-Fat in Hong Kong action hits such as "A Better Tomorrow" and "The Killer." First-time director Fuqua has studied Woo well, emulating him with extraordinarily choreographed gun-fighting scenes, rapid cuts, odd camera angles, and, of course, bullets-many, many bullets.

Yun-Fat plays John Lee, a deadly assassin who happens to have a conscience. Crimelord Mr. Wei (Kenneth Tsang) enlists him to assassinate the policeman who killed Wei's son (Michael Rooker), but Lee cannot do the job: he sees the policeman playing with his 7-year-old son and cannot bring himself to make the child an orphan.

Knowing there will be hell to pay for disobeying Mr. Wei, Lee turns to counterfeit specialist Meg Coburn (Mira Sorvino) from whom he needs a passport to enter China to protect his family. What ensues is slightly less than 90 minutes of exciting shootouts.

There is not much substance to "Killers," but as an action movie it is very satisfying-so satisfying, in fact, that one is left hoping for a sequel. What sets this film apart is clearly the direction, editing, and cinematography of Fuqua, Jay Cassidy, and Peter Lyons Collister. The opening is pure genius that beautifully sets the tone for the entire film.

And what of Yun-Fat? There is not much dialogue for him but his well-dressed, stoic assassin is cool and convincing. The chemistry is good between him and Sorvino, particularly in a surprisingly touching scene at a photo booth. With mere looks, the actors are able to speak "between the lines," saying many things without speaking a word. In action films, this is all too rare. If "Killers" is any indication, it would appear that Yun-Fat has a bright future ahead in Hollywood.

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