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)