I'm a lover of movies; in fact, I love all kinds of movies. Amongst them all, action movies especially are my passion. However, I also do enjoy sci-fi, drama, comedy, and horror. As for romance? Eh, if the babe is hot it might be deemed possibly watchable for me. Though even then, that so did not help me when I watched The English Patient (1996). Otherwise, I rather watch Batman & Robin (1997) for 24 hours straight than see a cheesy romance flick. Still, I cannot see every movie known to man when they come out, or only hear good stuff about them. Therefore, I'll put my behind down and review the flick. Enter this column, where I finally state was the movie truly worth the price of viewing or not.
My oh my, I’ve so wanted to see this film for a long time. This movie is the introduction to American audiences who’ve been living under a rock from Mister Chow Yun-Fat. Yes, the man is still stuck in this mold of bad ass action hero (much like Kiefer Sutherland who currently with every role he plays has the shadow of his character Jack Bauer from 24 looming over him). He’s tried to escape it and has made some good films. Still for Chow, for action nuts he’ll forever be the man behind John Woo’s action classics A Better Tomorrow series, Hard-Boiled (1992), and The Killer (1989). Honestly, the man just oozes the requirements necessary to be on this tier. But more on those particular talents later.
I am very much ashamed to admit that this actual film has been denied to me several times of viewing. The only time I actually caught some of this film was on a winter night relaxing in a hotel room after helping my uncle install some dry wall in his summer home. Well, this was the final film in horde of films I bought when the local Hollywood Video closed by me. Not to mention I kept putting back this review since November, but then my computer broke down and it delaid my review of this film even more.
The plot to this film is simple. A Hired Killer (Chow) has been assigned a target. He refuses to carry out that target. His employers then send two equally bad ass replacement killers (played to perfect grimace by Til Schweiger aka Mr. Hugo Stiglitz and Danny Trejo) to finish off the first killer and also complete the contract. And even in its simplicity summarizing this film does not dumb it down at all. This gem is probably the last true damn good true action movie until Hot Fuzz and Shoot Em’ Up (2007).
So the gun play was up there perfectly imitated a John Woo film with its use of dual guns, just frantic action, and the surroundings are perfectly used to create some great atmosphere. I didn’t even realize until IMDbed the listing and found it was Antione Fuqua who also directed the dramatic masterpiece Training Day (2001). There’s a certain mood and great tone with each action piece in this. My personal favorite is the Arcade to parking lot shoot out Chow’s character has with his two replacements. It’s the moment the poor cops try and attempt to stop the madness only for the two killers just turn around and blow to hell the pigs away. God I love the shot of Schweiger prowling toward the camera while its upside down.
Though unlike other action flicks, this film is just filled with a small circle of such damn good main characters. Besides Chow who absolutely commands the screen with each scene he’s in. One moment he looks actually fragile, but the moment the click of a gun or he see’s the look of another trained killer, his training kicks in and bam quite literally.
His reasoning to why he does the jobs does make somewhat sense other than the fact on how he got to be such a damned good killer. All we get is a brief explanation, but I would have loved to see more of this character’s background. Still, the character is so damned layered it’s quite a treat then the usual card board Steven Seagal.
The same goes for the cop played by Michael Rooker, who usually in roles is also card board and usually idiotic. Not here. Rooker’s cop is actually competent at what he does and it is his antics that steer the course of the film to the direction it goes. Mira Sorvino does a good job playing a gal who is thrown head long into this as a gal who makes a living forging identities for clients who need to get the hell out of dodge.
Jurgen Prochnov probably is the only weak link in this film as the right hand to the bad guy in this piece. He absolutely hams it up just a bit in the final confrontation, though really it isn’t enough to drag the film down. The main bad guy (played by Kenneth Tsang) is menacing plus you feel for the dude as to why he wants to punish Rooker's cop character, and I really wish we saw more of him than Prochnov in the confrontation scene when the crime cartel finds their former favorite hired killer. I honestly think it would have heightened the final confrontation at the end a little more, but that's just me.
Then there’s the replacement killers themselves. Both Til
Schweiger and Danny Trejo make this film for me besides Chow’s performance in
this. They’re believable bad asses on the caliber of Chow’s level, and their
two confrontations with Chow are just awesome. If I recall right only Trejo’s
character amongst them has two lines of dialogue in the entire film, while
Schweiger just brings the menace. The looks he gives to Chow are really all
that does need to be said. My only wish would be if we had more of them in this film, but then again it would have dumbed down their effectiveness, so I'll say the two characters are used perfectly.
Honestly, I have no real negatives of this film save for Jurgen’s performance and the lack of more back-story to Chow’s character. Sorvino is pretty good here as well, and it’s a damn shame that she dropped off the map right after this movie because I haven’t seen her in a film since her cameo role (though I hear it was majorly cut and that there exists an over five hour version with her part intact) in Gods & Generals (2003). Still, at the very core this a very entertaining action movie one of the last of its kind from the 90s before Hollywood stopped caring about the story and more about the explosions and star power. The true crime above all else though is that this technically was the final time Chow picked up the gun or two of them with the body count rising.
So in that regard it’s a nice swan song, but damned if I or others miss Chow doing a role like this. If only Woo and Chow could return one last time together without the taint of American Hollywood and just do one final Hong Kong styled action film. But alas those days are over. Still this is a nice send up to those films and a nice exit and introduction for Chow to American audiences.
4.5 out of 5