In the late 1980s John Woo and Chow Yun-fat made a series of well-regarded action films in Hong Kong. Those movies were so popular that Woo was given his chance to direct a big-budget studio film with Hard Target in 1993. Five years later Chow Yun-fat got his turn to present himself to mainstream American audiences in The Replacement Killers. The film also serves as the feature debut of director Antoine Fuqua. So, we have a first time director and a leading man with no previous Hollywood screen credits, the result are predictably scattershot.
John Lee (Yun-fat) is an assassin who must complete one last job before he his out of debt to Triad boss, Terence Wei (Kenneth Tsang). The mission is to kill a cop, but Lee suffers a crisis of consciousness when the target’s son is present at the kill-point. Now, a target himself, Lee must use alternative means to escape the country. He turns to master forger Meg Coburn (Mira Sorvino) for a new passport. Before she can finish the job, Wei’s hitmen storm her place, destroying her high-tech devices in a violent shootout. Lee escapes the hit; Coburn is apprehended and released as bait so the detectives can see who comes after her. Meanwhile, Wei hires skilled out-of-town replacement killers (Til Schweiger, Danny Trejo) to take over the hunt for Lee and to execute the cop.
The Replacement Killers is a disappointing introduction to the screen presence of star Chow Yun-fat. A man who seemed majestic and the Asian embodiment of cool has been rendered charisma-free here. None of the talent that Fuqua would display later in his career is present in this film. There is a tremendous amount of firepower on-screen but the over-all film is listless and uninspired. The second nail in the coffin would be The Corrupter, virtually banishing Yun-fat out of the domestic market.
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Stars: Chow Yun-fat, Mira Sorvino, Til Schweiger