September 24, 2002 -- When picking from a stack of DVDs to watch, one starring Jean-Claude Van Damme is usually my last choice, after skipping it once before, I finally decided to take the plunge. I was surprised to find "Replicant" wasn't too bad at all.
Van Damme has managed to work his way down from success to obscurity in with a string of box office failures such as the terrible "Knock Off," one of the worst films I have seen in recent years. While "Replicant" has been described as a direct-to-video effort, it wasn't really. It was released theatrically in Europe for a brief run. It was released in France, at least. I don't know if it was shown anywhere else. It certainly doesn't look like a direct-to-video release with lots of expensive-looking stunts and explosions. Van Damme plays two roles in the film, something he has done several other times in his career. He plays "The Torch," a sadistic serial killer, and the replicant, a genetic twin of The Torch.
A shadowy government agency created the replicant as part of an experiment to track down terrorists. The theory is that terrorists and serial killers are similar. Makes sense to me. The replicant has enhanced extra sensory perception to help him link to the mind of The Torch. Ex-cop Jake Riley (Michael Rooker of "The Sixth Day") is assigned to use the replicant to track down The Torch. If the experiment is successful, more replicants will be made to track down terrorists. O.K., so it is scientifically impossible for this to work, but you have to admit it is an interesting premise for a story. Here you have a very evil character who is the exact duplicate of another man who is entirely innocent, and the two are mentally linked. In fact, until very recently, the replicant has been encased in a kind of artificial womb. It's like he was born yesterday.
The film really boils down to the relationship between Riley and the replicant. The other characters in the film are barely fleshed out. The Torch seldom appears and, while we learn what makes him tick, he really doesn't do much in the film except kill people and beat people up. The Torch is so evil, he even beats up old men in wheelchairs. He prefers, however, pretty young mothers, who he sometimes kills and then burns in front of their children. Misogyny, something new and different. One other character, a hooker (played by Marnie Alton) gets a little screen time, but doesn't make much of a dent in the story.
The main thing the film has going for it are some good fight scenes, some spectacular stunts and explosions. One memorable scene has an ambulance skid into a large stairway, tip over and land upside down in the stairway after a spectacular crash. There are also some serious pyrotechnics in the film, including a huge explosion inside a building. Hong Kong director Ringo Lam knows how to keep the action going in a martial arts film. The acting is surprisingly good by Van Damme and Rooker and the fight scenes and chase scenes are well staged. While the plot is thin, it is good enough to keep the story afloat between the numerous action scenes. All in all, it is not a bad action film. You'll definitely want to check it out if you are a fan of Jean-Claude Van Damme. This film rates a C+.
The DVD has high quality picture and sound. The image is in a 1.85:1 widescreen format. Sound comes in both 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby (tm) digital surround mixes. English and Spanish subtitles are also available. It also has some nice extras, like audio commentary by Rooker and Van Damme and eight deleted scenes. Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.