Jake Riley is working on the "Torch" case, a psycho serial killer, who kills women with kids and sets them on fire after they are dead. The killer calls Riley sometimes and now, that Riley retires, the killer has no person to play against anymore. The NSA comes into play here and offers a job to Riley. A replicant, or better a clone of the killer should help him find the real one, as kind of test if it works out. Now Riley is back on track, with a clone of the killer at his hand on the way to discover that nobody is born as murderer.
Directed by: Ringo Lam
. Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme
, Michael Rooker
, Catherine Dent
, Brandon James Olson
, Pam Hyatt
, Ian Robison
, Allan Gray
, James Hutson
, Jayme Knox
, Paul McGillion
, Chris Kelly
, Peter Flemming
, Margaret Ryan
. Music by: Alex Khaskin
, Guy Zerafa
Not your typical Van Damme star vehicle, nor your typical dumb action movie. Talented director Ringo Lam, who gave us the gritty crime film "City on Fire" and the spectacular tour de force known as "Full Contact" entered the 00's decade with a thoughtful and entertaining sci-fi action film that fared considerably better than the last Van DammeLam collaboration "Maximum Risk", a film that succeeded in mood, but little else.
"Replicant" poses some interesting questions: Who are we and where do we really come from? Can we overcome a horrifying past full of violence and become reborn anew? Ringo Lam and his team of writers managed to make a film that offers something for pretty much everybody; serious sci-fi fans and those who simply want a gritty, violent (but also polished) action flick that blurs the fine line between the old-school and the new-school.
Van Damme helps hold it all together, and in terms of acting, he's never been more engaging. As expected, he plays two roles here, that of vicious serial killer Edward Garrotte and the Replicant who is hired by a secret government agency to stop him, who just so happens to be a clone of Edward. They cloned Edward through DNA evidence found at a crime scene. Jake (Michael Rooker) is the one who has to work together with the Replicant to find Edward and put a stop to his vicious crimes. Jake despises the Replicant because he only sees Edward in him, and is smart enough to know that at any moment, the Replicant could snap and Edward's killer instinct might take over. This is because Edward's memories are stored in the Replicant's DNA. Jake is a no-nonsense agent, so he's constantly abusing and belittling the Replicant in the hopes of training him to find and take out Edward before it's too late.
There's a lot more going on under the surface, though, as the Replicant is trying to find himself along the way. Edward plays mind games with the Replicant in their confrontations, trying to convince him that they are one in the same. But whereas Edward is a cruel and psychotic killer who gets his kicks burning women alive, the Replicant is like a newborn baby by comparison; full of potential, but ultimately clueless. In one scene, a prostitute invites him up to her apartment for a little one-on-one time. The Replicant, confused and afraid, doesn't understand sexual activity, and in the process, winds up embarrassing himself. The prostitute pops the question, "Is this your first time?" right after calling on her pimp to come take care of this "weirdo". This sub-plot comes full-circle by the end, as the Replicant, finally a free man, goes and finds the prostitute again. Only this time, he's ready.
The relationship between Jake and the Replicant is the heart of the film. Jake is like the surrogate father of the Replicant; he's hard on him and gets constantly angry, but only means the best for him. There's a touching scene at the end after Jake kills Edward where, the Replicant and Jake, all bloodied up are essentially in each other's arms as Jake is trying to keep the Replicant conscious. The Replicant looks at Edward's dead body and says, "Jake....my family's gone." Jake then looks at Edward and back at the Replicant, and says, "Hey...hey, he's not your family.....I'm your family. I'm your family, now." It's at that moment where everything just clicks. Two polar opposites, one prejudiced against the other because of his look-a-like. The other, although deadly, brought into a cruel world where he had a choice, succumbs to confusion. If he can't trust someone who looks exactly like him, who can he trust? That's the question that was likely going through his head at the end, as his clone tried to take his life away from him. Throughout the film, he has various memories circling throughout his head, which only adds to his confusion. And we're confused, too, as one of the only things we know about the Replicant is that he likes the rain. An homage to "Blade Runner", perhaps.
Believing the Replicant to have died in the explosion at the end of the film, Jake further shows his human side by quitting the agency, which is tragic considering that during the moment before his death, the Replicant realized who his true family is. But Jake soon realizes that it takes a lot more than an explosion to kill a genetically engineered person. That is, unless the Replicant escaped right before the explosion went off in the hospital.
Ringo Lam nails the atmosphere of a dark, uncanny future full of death and violence. The film is more polished than his Hong Kong films, yet doesn't entirely lack the grit of them. The action scenes are well staged, not too showy, and still manage to feel very lively in the process. The framing of shots is also professional, never allowing us to miss an important detail, and the film overall looks quite good, especially on Blu-ray. Van Damme nails both characters to a tee, showing malicious intent, and pent-up rage, among other things, in the role of Edward, in a surprisingly subtle way. As the Replicant, he has a couple of campy moments, but is generally believable in such a vulnerable role, where he's essentially playing a child in a man's body, albeit one who is capable of kicking some major ass.
Van Damme made two singular films in his career that stand head and shoulders above the rest. One of them was "Knock-Off", a borderline brilliant satireparody made by another talented Asian director by the name of Hark Tsui. "Replicant" is the other one; a film that could've easily fallen apart in the wrong hands, managed to rise above the limitations of the lead actor and become a poignant and entertaining piece of science fiction that contains just as much heart as it does thrills.
Review by Dressed_for_Dinner from the Internet Movie Database.