|Star:||Jet Li, Aaliyah, Russell Wong, Delroy Lindo|
|Cert / Year:||18 - R / 2000|
The basic story is, there are two gangs. One gang is Chinese (very diluted Triad / Yakuza) and the other is African-American. Both gangs are trying to own as much property on a specific area of waterfront, in order to sell it for a ridiculous price to some corporate cretins who want to build an NFL (American Football) stadium.
When the Chinese boss’s son is killed things start to heat up for their apparent joint business venture. So the leader of the other gang, Isaak O’Day (Delroy Lindo) gets a little bit edgy about the safety of his own son and daughter. Meanwhile back in China the other son of the Chinese boss, Han (Jet Li) effects a very impressive escape from a maximum security prison.
Han subsequently arrives in the USA intent upon finding his brother's killer, avenge his death and therefore satisfy his honour. After stealing a taxi, Han meets O’Day’s daughter Trish (Aaliyah) and after taking her for a spin around the block he drops her off at her "trendy" clothing / record shop. Han then breaks into his brothers old apartment, and after snooping around a bit, and reminiscing about their childhood, he makes himself at home.
Pretty soon Han starts to piece things together as all good cops do (even ex cops) , and meets up with Trish to see what she knows about their parents business dealings. Unfortunately some of her father’s "boys" are there and as her father's right hand man "Mac" has a "thing" for Trish, he coaxes Han into playing a little round of American football with them. Obviously in an attempt to hurt and humiliate Han in the eyes of Trish, and to win her over for himself. Mac, instructs the rest of the boys to knock Han around a bit. But Han seems to get a more than rudimentary grasp of American football quite quickly, and after a quite amusing but brief game, Han gives Trish his address and leaves.
Colin (O’Day’s son) gets thrown out of a window, and Trish goes running to Han for comfort. After a little chat they decide that they want to get to the bottom of what has been going on, and seek revenge / justice. Which all culminates in a couple of big cheques and a major double cross.
Hmmmm..... Romeo Must Die has received some positively awful reviews and apparently not many people like it (can't imagine why) and it has been described as a modern day Romeo & Juliet. Unfortunately, the only similarity that I can see is that the children of the heads of two feuding families fall for each other. (I really hate the way people compare films to Shakespeare, it is really quite sad!). That aside the film does contain a couple of technically impressive martial arts, and some pretty bad too!
Fans of Jet Li and Hong Kong Cinema will know that Jet Li is a fantastic and well accomplished martial artist and athlete, far better than Jackie Chan. Unfortunately a lot of the action scenes are rather badly shot in this instance and with the assistance of some "Bullet-Time Photography" (as used in The Matrix) and some pretty tacky CGI, Jet Li's fight scenes as well as appearing quite absurd also manage to demean the film significantly. I sincerely hope that this is not an indication of what a Hollywood career will mean for Jet Li as he has done much better in Hong Kong and deserves a decent showcase for his talents. This is definately NOT it, and personally I would have to suggest that either the Shaolin Temple or the Once Upon a Time in China movies would act as a better introduction to his ample Martial arts talent for any viewer.
On the plus side, the X-Ray photography during a couple of the fights is fresh perspective and an ingenious idea, and once you get used to it they don't seem too bad. Romeo Must Die is sloppily directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, who was the cinematographer for the likes of Species and Devils Advocate, but he really shouldn’t have tried his hand at directing, as he is hellishly inexperienced. Personally I think he should stick with what he knows, because he certainly can’t direct. Aaliyah is obviously going places and is quite popular now, having secured the starring role in the upcoming Queen of The Damned and why not, she has some good scenes in this film and her fight sequence has to be the funniest of the movie. Romeo Must Die is rather disappointing, Jet Li deserves a lot better and the general direction is pretty dire. If you're not into "Hip-Hop" then get the aspirin, the film has it oozing and pounding out of everywhere and quite frankly it can do without it!
The film does however feature some good martial arts and a couple of good performances, although not many. Unfortunately, a mediocre film in every sense.