Replicant [2001]

Director: Ringo Lam
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michael Rooker, Catherine Dent, Brandon James Olson, Pam Hyatt
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 100 minutes

Jean-Claude Van Damme (star of Timecop and Universal Soldier) plays two roles in this surprisingly good action thriller. Replicant also stars Michael Rooker (of Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer, The Replacement Killers) as Jake Riley, a cop who's been tracking a serial killer called "The Torch" (Van Damme). Frustrated, Riley decides to retire--and the National Security Department makes him an offer: they've cloned "The Torch" as part of a program to track down terrorists; they'll turn this replicant (Van Damme again, of course) over to Riley as a sort of test run for the program. The idea is that the replicant will slowly recall the original person's memories and lead the cops to the original. It's ridiculous, but no more ridiculous than the setup for the highly successful Face/Off, and it works just as well as the engine for an effective action flick. What makes Replicant more unusual is that the writers actually put some thought into the relationship between Riley and the replicant, which starts to mirror parent-child relationships in emotionally complex ways. Furthermore, while it's no surprise that Rooker gives a solid performance, it is surprising that Van Damme does just as good a job in both of his roles--he's perfectly creepy as the serial killer and genuinely affecting as the quickly developing replicant, projecting a mixture of innocence and turmoil. Replicant was directed by Hong Kong director Ringo Lam, the man behind Full Contact and City on Fire. He was clearly working on a limited budget, but the movie looks good, moves with lean efficiency, and has some riveting action sequences and good quality effects--the scenes where Van Damme (inevitably!) fights himself are completely convincing. A satisfying movie. --Bret Fetzer

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