The Replacement Killers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Chalk up this one as another fine offering from Columbia-Tristar (CTS), as Killers provided a consistently solid visual experience.
Sharpness looked terrific from start to finish. At all times I found the picture to appear nicely crisp and detailed, with virtually no signs of softness or blurriness. It stayed detailed and distinct throughout the film. Jagged edges and moiré effects showed no concerns, and I also detected no concerns related to edge enhancement. In regard to print flaws, I saw some grain at the start of the movie, and I also noticed a speckle or two and a smidgen of grit, but overall, it seemed clean and fresh.
Within the very stylized palette favored by former music video director Antoine Fuqua, the colors of Killers looked strong. The varying hues came across as vivid and clear, with vibrant tones that consistently appeared accurate and lively. Black levels also seemed deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy but never excessively dense. Overall, the minor flaws kept The Replacement Killers from reaching reference level, but it still offered a very positive piece of work.
Also good was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Replacement Killers, though it wasn’t quite up to the standards of the visuals. My concerns related to the soundfield. On the positive side, this was a very active affair that kept all five channels working through the majority of the movie. Music showed good stereo imaging and the track provided a nice sense of general ambience.
Where I felt less than satisfied dealt with the localization and integration of the audio. Too much of the audio blended together to an excessive degree. Much of the time, I thought sound seemed murkily defined and didn’t come across as distinctly located. Gunfire was the main issue, as the bullets seemed to bleed together and not come from terribly specific places. This wasn’t a major issue, and it’s not like placement of sound was incorrect; the material emanated from the appropriate areas. It just wasn’t as specific and distinct as it should have been.
Audio quality appeared excellent. Speech was always natural and warm, and I noticed no problems related to intelligibility or edginess. Music sounded bright and dynamic, with clear highs and rich lows. Effects seemed clean and accurate. They showed no signs of distortion and also displayed solid bass response that was appropriately defined but not overly boomy. Ultimately, I thought the mix lacked strong enough definition to warrant a rating in “A” territory, but it still worked well for the most part.
This new release of The Replacement Killers replaces an old movie-only edition and includes a decent little roster of supplements. We start with an audio commentary from director Antoine Fuqua. He provides a running, vaguely screen-specific track that has some flaws but generally offers a compelling experience.
On the positive side, Fuqua covers a lot of good information about the film. He relates how he became involved in the project and seems nicely honest and up-front when it comes to negative issues on the set. While he doesn’t dish any serious dirt, Fuqua offers solid details about problems such as some changes forced upon him by the studio. He also gives us an interesting look at his thoughts on Asian cinema and a variety of film-related issues that didn’t deal specifically with Killers.
My only real complaint about Fuqua’s commentary relates to its gaps. This track doesn’t suffer from a slew of empty spaces, but it offers more than a few and they’re largely unnecessary. That’s because it quickly becomes clear that Fuqua chats with an unheard interviewer. Most of his statements come from questions we never hear, and that gets frustrating. Not only does it contribute to the higher number of gaps, but also it makes some of Fuqua’s comments nonsensical. For example, at one point he makes a comment about some excised footage, but the interviewer described the content itself; Fuqua offers no information about the material other than to quickly relate why it was cut. As such, we know the reason behind the removal but still have no idea what was omitted!
Many audio commentaries come from interview sessions like this, and only a few of them bother to let us hear the interviewer. I don’t know why that is; perhaps the issue revolves around money or rights. All I know is that it means the commentaries often seem less comprehendible. Most don’t suffer as much as Fuqua’s, which really loses something without the questions, but I still don’t understand why we don’t just hear the full audio. I still liked Fuqua’s track and thought it offered some good material, however, even with the awkward format.
By the way, when I called the commentary “vaguely screen-specific”, I meant it. At times, Fuqua discusses material that occurs in the film, but that happens very rarely. Most of the chat seems more general, though. I liked it, but folks who dislike non-screen-specific tracks need this warning, as it might drive them nuts.
After that we encounter some additional video features. First up is an HBO “Making-Of” special called Where the Action Is. This 10-minute and five-second featurette offers the standard mix of movie clips, shots from the set, and interview sound bites. In the latter regard, we hear from executive producer Matt Baer, director Fuqua, and actors Chow Yun-Fat and Mira Sorvino. If you expect much more than the standard promotional fare, you’ll depart disappointed. The program shows lots of material from the movie and touts it, though the hype factor seems somewhat subdued; it’s not as strident as many similar pieces. It includes a smidgen of useful data, but for the most part it seems pretty bland.
Next we discover a 20-minute and 25-second documentary entitled Chow Yun-Fat Goes Hollywood. Though created relatively recently - especially compared with the four-year-old “Making-Of” special - “Hollywood” feels like an extension of the HBO piece. The format seems very similar, and the level of depth remains consistent. In this piece, we do hear from a few more folks, though. We get more from 1998 interviews with Chow and Sorvino as well as newer snippets from Fuqua, Baer, executive producer Terence Chang, director James Foley (who helmed Chow’s second American flick, 1999’s The Corruptor), Ed Baker of LA’s Cinefile Video, and Erik Nakamura, editor of Giant Robot magazine.
Despite the additional length and higher number of participants, “Hollywood” appears just as superficial as the HBO program. I thought it would offer a nice look at Chow’s adjustment to American movies, but instead it’s little more than a puff piece. We learn a) how talented Chow is, and b) how nice Chow is. I don’t doubt that he’s both nice and talented, but I didn’t need 20 minutes of this show to tell me so. Frankly, Fuqua covers similar territory in his commentary and does so with greater detail; this documentary seems eminently avoidable.
Somewhat superior are the Deleted Scenes we find here. Actually, the title is somewhat deceptive, as only one of the five clips was totally absent from the final film; the other four offer extended renditions of existing scenes. The snippets last between 33 seconds and three minutes, 43 seconds for a total of eight minutes and 12 seconds of footage. None of them are essential, and a few display very minor additions. However, I did like the sole truly deleted scene; entitled “John’s Father”, it provided some useful depth.
Found in a separate section of the DVD, we also get an Alternate Ending. Don’t expect anything mind-blowing, however; this clip is really just an extended version of the existing conclusion. The piece runs for two minutes and 13 seconds and doesn’t really add much to the package. Note that all of the unused material appears in non-anamorphic 2.35:1 with Dolby Surround 2.0 audio. The quality’s pretty rough, though not terrible.
Lastly, some of the old standards finish off the DVD. We get Filmographies for Fuqua, Chow and Sorvino as well as a selection of trailers. That area includes ads for The Replacement Killers (presented anamorphic 2.35:1, Dolby Digital 5.1), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (fullscreen, Dolby Surround 2.0), and The One (anamorphic 1.85:1, Dolby Digital 5.1).
While I applaud the efforts of CTS to replace their older movie-only titles with special editions, as seen here, many of the new DVDs really don’t add much substantial content. On the surface, The Replacement Killers appears to provide a lot of new features, but only a few of these seem worthwhile. I liked the audio commentary from Antoine Fuqua, and I thought that at least one of the deleted scenes was solid. However, the others were somewhat flat, and both of the featurettes seemed superficial and generally uninformative.
As a movie, I found The Replacement Killers to provide a flashy but fairly dull piece of work. The glitzy visuals never added up to much real excitement, and the film’s good cast couldn’t compensate for these concerns. The DVD offered very solid picture and positive sound plus the decent but lackluster collection of extras discussed above.
So I find it difficult to recommend The Replacement Killers to many folks. Anyone who knows they love the flick but never bought the original DVD should grab it, I suppose; I see no reason to pursue the older one instead. Those less sure that they’ll care for the movie may want to rent it first - in either DVD incarnation - to see what they think. As for those who already own the prior edition, I think that one should be good enough for anyone who isn’t totally enraptured by Killers; some of the new additions are nice, but as a whole, they’re too insubstantial to warrant a repurchase.