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Hi-Def Reviews
Blu-ray Disc reviews by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

The Replacement Killers: Extended Cut (Blu-ray Disc)

Blu-ray Disc Format1080p - Analog Full ResolutionUncompressed PCM

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The Replacement Killers: Extended Cut
1998 (2007) - Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Released on Blu-ray Disc on September 11th, 2007

Film: C+
Video (1-20): 15
Audio (Uncompressed PCM - 1-20): 18
Extras: B

Specs and Features:
96 mins, Not Rated, MPEG4 AVC 1080p widescreen (2.40:1), BD-25 SL, Elite Blue HD packaging, "making of" featurette, Chow Yun-Fat Goes Hollywood featurette, animated film-themed root menu with audio/"in-film" menu overlay, scene access (16 chapters), languages: Uncompressed PCM 5.1 (English and Italian) & Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Italian and Hungarian), subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Mandarin, Korean, Thai, Hebrew, Arabic, Dutch, Swedish, Hungarian, Czech, Norwegian, Danish, Hindi, Polish, Greek, Icelandic, Finnish, Turkish, Slovenian, Bulgarian, Croatian and Romanian, Closed Captioned

Sometimes after a stressful day at the office all I want to do is come home, fire up my home theater, switch off my brain and watch some good old-fashioned excessive violence. The Replacement Killers fills that need quite nicely. This movie is wholly predictable, filled with clichés and has a paper-thin plot. But for some reason it's a flick I still find entertaining. If you feel the same way read on to find out if an upgrade to Blu-ray is worth your money.

Powerful Chinatown crime boss Mr. Wei calls on his top assassin John Lee (played by Chow Yun-Fat, the Patron Saint of Pistol-Wielding Bad Asses) to avenge his son's death at the hands of police detective Zedkov (Michael Rooker). When John's conscience won't allow him to carry out the execution he must flee the wrath of Boss Wei and high-tail it to China to protect his mother and sister lest Wei finds them first and makes them pay for his disobedience. John tracks down expert document forger Meg Coburn (Mira Sorvino) to hustle together a fake passport. But Wei's thugs follow John to her office and the feisty, take-no-guff Meg becomes embroiled in the violence and takes on the role of John's unlikely ally. Wei hires a pair of brutal replacement killers (one of whom is real-life bad ass Danny Trejo) to finish John's assignment and to finish John himself. John and Meg decide to strike back at Wei and his army of villains and make a stand for what's right. But will they be successful in the face of insurmountable odds?

While The Replacement Killers is almost so by-the-book as to be another forgettable entry in the pantheon of action cinema, the film's saving grace is its charismatic heroes. Chow Yun-Fat is always the strongest asset of gritty crime tales such as The Corruptor, The Killer and (of course) Hard-Boiled. These modern-day pulp diversions are showpieces for his commanding screen presence and addictive charisma. Casting Yun-Fat in an otherwise mediocre film like The Replacement Killers helps make the experience more memorable.

The biggest treat this film provided for me was how well Mira Sorvino performed in her first (and, I believe, only) role as an action heroine. Sorvino's hard-edged physical and emotional presences in The Replacement Killers not only complemented Yun-Fat's character, but were also able to hold up against his commanding performance. While I don't want to give the impression that these were Oscar-worthy turns, in the genre of action cinema if a director casts a couple of wet noodles as his heroes, he's well and truly screwed before the first frame of film is shot. That is definitely not the case here. Antoine Fuqua proved in his directorial debut that he had a keen eye for casting this style of film.

The 2.40:1 MPEG4 AVC transfer on the Blu-ray edition of The Replacement Killers is good but not great. During optimal, brighter conditions the transfer can look very nice, sporting crisp detail. But overall the transfer has slightly overblown contrast and vivid colors appear pasty. Plus there is a lot of grain in this transfer… a lot! Normally grain doesn't bother me because it is a natural part of watching film. However, on this BRD the level of grain washes out finer detail in dark scenes, and there are a lot of dark scenes in this film. While the transfer definitely is not the best there is on the Blu-ray format, it is still a hands-down improvement over the standard DVD version of the film.

And then you have the audio. The uncompressed PCM 5.1 track is sublime. The movie's ample amount of gunfire is potent and sweetly punctuated with kick from the subwoofer. During the many action sequences the entire soundstage explodes with the chaos of a firefight bombarding the listener from every direction. During subtler moments dialog is always clear and well mixed. On the downside, during these quieter moments ambience is sacrificed for the score, which can be a touch over-mixed, drowning out environmental effects.

The extra features included on The Replacement Killers Blu-ray are sparse and not really worth your time. There's a short "making of" featurette that's purely promotional and lacks anything in the way of insight. The longer featurette called Chow Yun-Fat Goes Hollywood is basically a 20-minute love letter to Yun-Fat from acting and directing collaborators and video store clerks (?). On the brighter side, the extended cut of the film appears on this Blu-ray release. The extra 10 minutes or so added to this cut provide a bit more character depth and is the preferred version of the movie.

So is The Replacement Killers worth the upgrade to Blu-ray? Yeah, I'd say go for it: Even though the transfer has its faults it's still better than the standard DVD and if your home theater is capable of playing PCM surround audio you will not be disappointed by the rat-a-tat coming from your speakers.

Greg Suarez
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