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The Replacement Suspects
Chinese: 困獸
Julian Cheung and Christine Ng
Year: 2001
Director: Marco Mak Chi-Sin
Writer: Simon Lui Yu-Yeung
Cast: Julian Cheung Chi-Lam, Kenny Bee, Michael Wong Mun-Tak, Christine Ng Wing-Mei, Simon Lui Yu-Yeung, Roy Cheung Yiu-Yeung, Sonja Kwok Sin-Nei, Oscar Leung Lit-Wai
The Skinny: A good plotline is wasted by strange dialogue, questionable acting and bizarre direction.
by Kozo:

A nifty plot is the key point for this new thriller from director Marco Mak and screenwriter Simon Lui. Rick (Julian Cheung) leads his brother Simon Lui and pal Roy Cheung on a routine jewel heist. However, their getaway is foiled when their car (a grey Sunny) turns out to be the same as that of a supposed arms dealer (Kenny Bee), who's on his way to make a deal. 

During their getaway, the thieves' car crosses paths with the dealer's car and therin lies the switch. The cops end up chasing the thieves, who get into a minor accident which injures Simon Lui. To recuperate, they hole up at a local bar named Jurassic. The cops surround the place, so Rick and his gang think they're the ones being targeted. However, the arms dealer is in there, too. 

The set-up for this film is good, as it creates immediate tension in the confined setting of Jurassic. There are a variety of hostages (including Christine Ng) who find themselves terrorized by the three thieves. Or is that really the case? Ultimately, the fault for everything falls on Kenny Bee's arms dealer. And when the thieves find out, you can bet they'll be pissed.

Then things fall apart. Simon Lui has written some interesting stuff lately (Killer, Nightmares at Precinct 7, Paramount Hotel), but this film strays a bit. The situations and characters are good, but the script is little ham-handed. There are bizarre moments where people start spouting existential dialogue to anyone within earshot. Furthermore, director Marco Mak uses nifty Blown Away-type zoom-ins that take us through phone lines and into people's brains. The effect proves distracting and more than a little silly.

The acting complicates things further. While Christine Ng and Julian Cheung turn in decent performances (Cheung is surprisingly effective here), there are plenty of crappy performances to make them look bad by association. Michael Wong turns in what has to be the most incredibly awful performance of the year. Looking a bit chubbier than usual, Wong essays his police chief with the usual does of mixed English/Cantonese dialogue. However, he adds an Al Pacino-like overacting to his repertoire which is sure to get him banned from many a future production. Roy Cheung fares poorly as well. His character is a thief suffering from hypertension, so he spends the film shaking and acting like a loon. 

Maybe all of this can be taken back to director Mak. While his earlier films (Love Correction, Cop on a Mission) were effective, he resorts to an overdone theatrical style that proves ill-fitting. The Replacement Suspects takes place in one location, so all the style and overacting may be an attempt to compensate for the lack of movement. Still, the material seems better suited to a claustrophobic thriller and not an overdirected action drama with Matrix-like gunshots. They should have had more faith in the material. (Kozo 2002)

Notes: The Replacement Suspects has a plotline that is a virtual carbon copy of the 1996 thriller Albino Alligator, written by Christian Forte and directed by Kevin Spacey. In that film, the three criminals were played by Matt Dillon, Gary Sinise, and William Fincter. Viggo Mortensen and Joe Mantegna had the roles essayed by Kenny Bee and Michael Wong in The Replacement Suspects. Since I never saw Albino Alligator, the ripoff flew below my radar back in 2002. Leave it to Simon Lui to rip off a six year-old movie.
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Laser
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

image courtesy of Universe Laser & Video Co., Ltd. Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen