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Replicant (2001)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Ringo Lam

Jean-Claude Van Damme/Replicant
Michael Rooker/Jake
Catherine Dent/Angie
7 10
Cop boy Jake (Rooker) has been hunting down ruthless serial killer The Torch (Van Damme) for years. He’s come close to catching the bad boy but he’s still at large. Upon Jake’s retirement from the force, a shady Federal Agency approaches him with an unorthodox approach to catching the elusive murderer. You see, they’ve cloned The Torch from a strand of hair that he once left behind at a crime scene and they want Jake to use the Replicant to track down the killer. The idea is that the Replicant will eventually remember the original’s memories and therefore lead Jake to him. Jake gets custody of the Replicant and the hunt begins.
I should put this on the table before I proceed with my review: I dig Jean-Claude Van Damme. I’ve been a fan of his since the beginning and have never stopped rooting for him to get back up the Hollywood ladder (my advice to J-C: quit the coke and for the love of God, no sequel to "Knock Off"). Having said that I was very excited to see "Replicant".

Van Damme has played twin characters before in "Double Impact" and "Maximum Risk" (another Ringo Lam film) but Replicant takes the “gimmick” 5 steps further and brings it into the realm of maturity. This might disappoint some of you but Replicant isn’t your typical wham-bam-Van-Damme fluff. Now don’t get me wrong, we still get our exciting fight sequences, our nasty explosions, our groovy car chases (there's a very kool one involving an ambulance here), our Van Damme doing the splits (yes, he can still do it) and the imminent Van Damme vs Van Damme fisticuffs, but the film is also a character-driven piece that explores the relationships and the situation at hand very deeply. I know what you’re thinking…WHAT?????

But it's true. The emotional aspects of the story definitely come first and the action comes in a close second. The film focuses on the Replicant’s touching evolution, his learning moments and his emotional turmoil. Helped by Van Damme’s bang-on performance, the Replicant turns out to be a very endearing character. The situational humor that occasionally popped out also made the movie and the character so much more interesting (the bathroom undressing scene…hilarious). The mass-murdering Torch also gets the in-depth treatment, he’s actually given a motive via flashbacks and Van Damme even brings a dash of humanity to the part. I adored the scene between The Torch and his own mother…very effective. I also dug The Torch’s fits of extreme violence. You can’t go wrong with Van Damme acting badass and kicking that gratuitous ass…fun stuff!

The character of Jake (Rooker) is a tad trickier. He’s the good guy but is initially portrayed in a very unsympathetic light. He beats the Replicant and treats him like a dog for most of the film. I actually felt somewhat troubled by how he mentally/physically abused the child-like being. Think “Mommy Dearest” for the “action” genre. Fortunately, the relationship between Jake and the Replicant eventually evolves to mirror a parent/child relationship with all the complex emotional issues that come with it. I was happy when he stopped beating the shit out of poor Van Damme…poor guy. And last but not least, we have the Torch/Replicant relationship, which brings up the theme of “brotherhood” and the eventual internal confusion within the Replicant. On a lighter note, it also delivers two Van Dammes pounding each other like ground beef. It’s a freaking hoot!

The film does have its snags. First off, one relationship suffers in this movie and that’s the Jake/Angie (Dent) thang. After seeing the deleted scenes (that are on the DVD), I now know that it was initially fleshed out but as it is now, Angie’s presence in the film is never fully justified. I was also surprised at how the characters reacted to seeing the very first human clone. Let's just say they were not impressed and accepted his existence in a "ho-hum" fashion. The film also has the occasional corny line such as “welcome to my world motherfucker” and the last frames of the movie disappointed me big time, kind of a silly way to cap it all off. I would have enjoyed a more thought-out or maybe even darker conclusion.

Overall, "Replicant" reeled me in with its characters and slapped a grin on my face with its action set pieces and its situational humor. It even tugged at my heartstrings in respect to the Replicant and his plight! It was the first time a Van Damme flick touched me on a deeper level than a kool round kick. The rainy Vancouver location also served the film well and kickass HK director Ringo Lam is on top of it all. Want a side order of fries with that? I don’t think so, this meal is damn full. Are you guys ready to see Van Damme stretch? I sure was…wham- bam this!
Not much gore but the violence is pretty harsh. We get women getting beat and burned alive in front of their children. We get a dude in a wheelchair getting hit by an ambulance; we get a stabbing, gun shot wounds and lots of kicks in the head.
Jean-Claude Van Damme (The Torch/ Replicant) gives a tour de force show here. I forgot Van Damme, the movie star, and relished the man’s performance and obvious newfound maturity as an actor. As The Torch, Van Damme does “menacing” very well, gives the character some depth and looks slick in his badass attire (loved the leather coat, the long hair and the sunglasses, dude). As the Replicant, Van Damme displays incredible vulnerability and had me hooked all the way. The role is similar to his "Universal Soldier" character but taken way further in a "Greystoke: Legend of Tarzan" kind of way. Congrats Jean–Claude, you’re getting there! Michael Rooker (Jake) must like “clone” films because he was also in Arnie’s “The 6th Day”. Here, he’s at his most intense once again and has the balls to play the character in an unlikable fashion. Nice work. Catherine Dent (Angie) handles her part well and I liked what I saw, but unfortunately she doesn’t have much to do. Her scenes with Rooker are “on” though. Good chemistry.
T & A
We get a hot hooker wearing a short skirt and her bra. On the flip side, the gals get J-C naked (only see butt) and J-C shirtless many times. It's not a heterosexual boyz night out but others will enjoy.
Ringo Lam is no hack and he uses his trademark style to serve the story very well here. The flashbacks are slickly delivered, the slow motion is used at all the right moments, the groovy camera angles give the film a kool look, the tension is felt, the atmosphere is gloomy and of course, the action sequences are brilliantly executed.
The score sometimes goes the “eerie” route to support the more disturbing images of the film. But when it shifts into “action mode” it becomes generic.
Distributed By Artisan Entertainment Official Release Date: October 16, 2001

Image: The image is crisp and the 16:9 Widescreen ratio gives this moody film all the room it needs to showcase its visuals.

Sound: The Dolby 5.1 surround sound and the 2.0 digital audio is fair but at some times I felt the score didn’t ring loud enough. Maybe my TV needed more volume.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary with Jean-Claude Van Damme & Michael Rooker (feature length): It’s obvious that both Van Damme and Rooker aren’t together. They’re both separate commentaries. Rooker pops in and delivers the more interesting, enthusiast and informative commentary. He touches everything, from how he got attached to the project, how certain scenes came to be and the craft of acting. He also has a great sense of humor. Van Damme pops in less than Rooker and his “two cents” start off kind of bland. But as the commentary rolls on, he becomes more interesting and goes into his views on acting, the cutting of certain scenes and his fellow actors. There’s a lot of dead time here but the commentaries still come through.

Storyboards: We get the storyboards for the first 15 minutes of the movie here. Somewhat interesting but nothing to write home about. I did appreciate the fact that you do have control over the speed of the storyboards though. I love those “next” buttons as opposed to the frequent slide shows some DVD’s showcase.

Trailer: An exciting trailer for the film with the narrator saying "Van Damme" way too many times. Kind of funny.

Cast and Crew info: We get a standard info/filmography for JCVD, Michael Rooker, Catherine Dent, Ringo Lam, Danny Dimbort (executive producer), Trevor Short (executive producer), Avi Lerner (another executive producer) and John Thompson (producer). I would have liked to read some info on the screenwriters (Larry Riggins-Les Weldon) though. Did we really need all those “executive producers” bios?

Photo Gallery: This extra is very disappointing. We only get pictures of burnt corpses! Where's my on-set pictures? My behind-the-scenes photos? My Van Damme doing the splits picts?? Bummer dudes.

Deleted scenes (1-3 minutes each): This extra showcases 8 deleted scenes that were omitted from the final cut. They’re mostly all character-driven and I now know what happened to the Angie (Dent) part…it was severely cut out. Check it out…

Heat Of The Torch: An extended version of the opening murder that’s a bit more graphic. We see the chick burn more.

Party: A longer version of Jake’s (Rooker) retirement party. I’m happy they cut it down for the finish film; it would’ve killed the pace of the flick big time. Way too long…

Alert: This sequence adds meat to the Replicant’s birth sequence. In the film, he’s born normally but this deleted scene makes his birth problematic (he’s born early). I can see why they cut it out, doesn’t bring anything to the story.

Fruit Break: Here the Replicant steals some fruits and gets into a slight physical alteration with the fruit vendor. The “Angel Heart” score plays in the background; I guess they never scored the scene.

Family Life: More character exposition that was obviously cut to bring the clocking time down. Here Jake, his mom and Angie sit for coffee. Angie’s son also shows Jake a drawing. Scenes like this would have been good to show the softer side of Jake more often.

Jail Time: Here we get more interaction between Jake and Angie. I would have liked this scene to be kept in; it would have made Angie’s presence more justified. The scene goes on to have the Replicant bailed out of jail and recognize a picture of his double tacked on a wall. The “Angel Heart” score also plays during this scene.

In The Moment: Jake and Angie consume their affection for each other in a passionate make out session. Again, this should’ve stayed in to flesh out the Angie part and her relationship with Jake.

Electronic Leash: This scene gives a different spin to the ending. It shows that the Agency is still tracking the Replicant. This alternate ending makes more sense than the happy-go-lucky ending the finished version sports. For me anyways…

The overall DVD is decent. The animated menu is pretty slick and the extras are average. It's ok, nothing more, nothing less…DANG!
Van Damme fans rejoice! “The Muscles From Brussels” is back with his most ambitious film to date. You get drama, action, humor, Van Damme whooping Van Damme’s ass and Ringo Lam behind it all. Mind you, if you hate Van Damme don’t even bother but everybody else will hopefully get a sidekick in the nuts out of this one. I sure did and got way more than I expected. DAMN VAN DAMME! Good to see ya back in action, tough guy!
This film cost $16 million to make and was shot in Vancouver BC.
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