It's such a damn shame when such a talent and versatile actors like Jet Li and Delroy Lindo re subjected to portray such stereotypical, mundane, pointless characters. To all those who are unaware of Jet Li, stop reading right now and run down to your local video story and ask for Once Upon a Time in China, Bodyguard from Beijing, and Hitman. You might have seen him in that techno-redubbed version of Black Mask or as the evil Chinese bad guy in Lethal Weapon 4 that had be shot and stabbed before Mel Gibson could save face and not get his ass kicked again. But Jet Li's character in Romeo Must Die reminds me of the circus clown hired to keep the kiddies smiling in the film.
When the film (a modern-day feuding mob tale set in San Francisco) begins to drag, director Andrzej Bartkowiak just brings in Li to perform some amazing acrobatics and flying fists of fury to keep the audience awake. It's a damn shame, again, because Bartkowiak -- cinematographer for such films as Lethal Weapon 4 and The Devil's Advocate -- can't seem to follow any of the action. Jet Li moves so fast that the camera just catches flashes and never the fire of his movements.
The addition of Aaliyah (the R&B singer chosen as one of Teen People magazine's "21 Hottest Stars Under 21" for 1999) as one of the lead characters that falls for Jet Li's character is the true point of absurdity for the film. During one of the most poignant moments in the movie, her acting actually caused my rowfull of critics to burst into uncontrollable laughter. Aaliyah, put down the script and walk slowly towards the exit, stage right. Note to studio heads: The inclusion of a singer among the cast will not increase your soundtrack sales.
Romeo Must Die could have worked beautifully as a dark, twisted tale of family corruption and the values of loyalty and honor. All of the elements were present for success. But it inevitable turns into some lemon drop-sweetened nightmare, two hours long.
Perhaps the best description I can give you are the words of two ladies walking out of the screening, "That was some whacked shit!" I'll say.
Romeo must kill.
Run time: 115 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 22nd March 2000
Box Office Worldwide: $91M
Distributed by: Warner Home Video
Production compaines: Warner Bros Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 1 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 33%
Fresh: 30 Rotten: 62
IMDB: 6.0 / 10
Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Starring: Jet Li as Hang Sing, Aaliyah as Trish O`Day, Isaiah Washington as Mac, Russell Wong as Kai, DMX as Silk, Delroy Lindo as Isaak O`Day, D. B. Woodside as Colin O`Day, Jon Kit Lee as Po Sing, Edoardo Ballerini as Vincent Roth, Anthony Anderson as Maurice, Matthew Harrison as Dave, Terry Chen as Kuang, Henry O as Ch`u Sing