Romeo Must Die

"OK"

Romeo Must Die Review


Most freely adapted from Shakespeare, "Romeo Must Die" is a pounding-adrenaline martial arts action flick with a rival gang romance subplot that seems to have lifted more from "Macbeth" than "Romeo and Juliet" -- mainly that it's full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The marquee-topping American debut of Jet Li -- the high-kicking crown prince of Hong Kong kung fu movies and the bad guy from "Lethal Weapon 4" -- this MTV-minded festival of bullets and flying fists is a very slick affair. Taking a cue from "The Matrix," cinematographer Andrzej Bartkowiak (who shot "LW4") makes an action extravaganza of his first directing effort by employing suspension-wire acrobatics and a souped-up version of the now-famous rotating freeze-frame technique to enhance Li's 200-octane fight sequences.

Right out of the gate, Li kicks the asses of half a dozen Hong Kong prison guards, while hanging upside-down, one-legged, from a chain in a torture chamber. The raucous scene turns into a spectacular jailbreak, inspired by Li's desire to get to America and avenge the murder of his gangster brother.

The waterfront turf war that took his brother's life is between an Asian gang -- headed by Li's father (Henry O) and tough-guy lieutenant Russell Wong ("The Joy Luck Club") -- and a black gang (with Delroy Lindo and enforcer Isaiah Washington in charge) in Oakland, California (filmed in Vancouver, a laughable substitute). The two mobs are fighting over extorted deeds to properties where the NFL wants to build an expansion team stadium. It's part of a surprisingly sophisticated and layered plot that may have audiences that expected pure combat talking throughout the pic, trying to keep track of just what's going on.

Soon after Li arrives he meets Lindo's snapping, hottie daughter (singer Aaliyah in a satisfactory acting debut) and, slowly, sparks begin to fly. They're hardly star-crossed lovers, however. They never even kiss. Is Warner Bros. afraid of a little interracial nookie?

"Romeo Must Die" gets more interesting as the plot folds in on itself with double-crosses and inside hits taking out VIPs from each gang -- including Lindo's son.

But while the ambitious conspiracy narrative, the wowing 70mm photography and the ante-upping action scenes are impressive, "Romeo Must Die" just isn't the keeper it ought to be. Hampered by gimmicky, show-off effects (X-ray shots show breaking bones in fight scenes) and a soundtrack of stock "unh-unh, yeah baby" hip-hop that anchors it firmly in Y2K like a pair of cement overshoes, this movie has no chance at gaining status as an action classic -- which is what this story and this star deserved.

Li's undeniable charisma and incredible physical ability carry "Romeo" pretty far, so if his style of rock'em sock'em martial arts action is all you're looking for, it's hard to go wrong with this one. It's everything Hong Kong flicks would be if they had Hollywood's deep pockets -- Li's masterful ballets of fists and footwork, a Woo-ish gunfight, a killer car chase followed by a fight in which Aaliyah becomes a weapon in Li's arms, like a lethal swing dance couple, and more.

But when Bartkowiak took on the Bard, he took on the responsibility to do him justice. The inexperienced director does aim high, but ultimately "Romeo Must Die" succumbs to lowest common denominator syndrome.



Romeo Must Die

Facts and Figures

Run time: 115 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 22nd March 2000

Box Office Worldwide: $91M

Budget: $25M

Distributed by: Warner Home Video

Production compaines: Warner Bros Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 33%
Fresh: 30 Rotten: 62

IMDB: 6.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Hang Sing, as Trish O`Day, as Mac, as Kai, as Silk, as Isaak O`Day, D. B. Woodside as Colin O`Day, as Po Sing, as Vincent Roth, as Maurice, Matthew Harrison as Dave, as Kuang, as Ch`u Sing

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

Advertisement
The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Movie Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Movie Review

Subtitled Salazar's Revenge in the UK, this fifth film in the long-running series never quite...

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.