Romeo Must Die
WARNER BROS.
 
Starring:
Jet Lee, Aaliyah, Russel Wong, Delroy Lindo
Directed By:
Andrzej Bartkowiak
Year:
2000
Run Time:
110 mins
Producer: Warner Bros
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Languages:
ENGLISH 5.1
Subtitles:
Arabic, English (Close Caption), English, Romanian, Bulgarian
W/S Subtitles:
Yes
Ratio:
2.35:1 Anamorphic
Region:
Dual-Layer R2
Genre:
Wire-Fu / Modern Day Action - 15 (UK)
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MOVIE
4/10

After Han's (Jet Lee) brother is murdered in a gangland feud, two rival factions, the Chinese Triads and the Black gangsters (headed by the excellent Delroy Lindo), fight over a number of properties. Upon hearing of his brothers execution, Han escapes from prison, vowing to find his siblings killer and blah, blah, blah...

The plot-by-numbers storyline is really not worth dissecting any further because a) it holds no twists or surprises, and b) it's as predictable as they come.
The main reason I decided to rent this title was its lead - Jet Lee. Jet's always been a favourite actor of mine, and having seen him waste his time and talent in the distinctly average Lethal Weapon 4, I was looking forward to his first English language starring role.
As far as his performance goes, it's hard to tell what more he could have done with the clichéd dialogue and characters, and other than Jet's natural charisma and likeability, nothing of his considerable acting talent is ever stretched beyond looking brooding or angry.
In fact his performance is commendable in that it does contain a few fleeting moments of subtlety which it probably was never written to contain.

The few lighter scenes often pair him with Aaliyah, and the two work well together. However, one forced scene between the couple appears at the film's conclusion. I found it quite distasteful the way that Jet and Aaliyah glibly hug in the most asexual manner possible, when a kiss would have been the "perfect" ending to this otherwise predictable plot. Whether this scene was due to the fact that some higher power deemed it "inappropriate" for a Chinese male to kiss a Black woman on-screen, I don't know. But this struck me as a crudely handled final scene that still irritates me now.

The aforementioned Aaliyah isn't given anything particularly demanding to do, other than look incredibly attractive throughout the feature. Thankfully she excels in this department and to give her her dues, gives a general solid, if unspectacular, performance.

Now, I'm sure you're thinking "Stuff the plot, what about the action?". Well, where do I start....?
For such a physically gifted actor such as Jet, the action gives him little, if no chance to show off any of the moves which obviously got him the role in the first place.
The frequent (over)use of Wire-work, allowing Jet to perform multiple flying kicks and huge leaps etc., is an incredibly jarring element to the otherwise well choreographed, though poorly directed, fights.
No doubt trying to replicate the action seen in the Matrix, Lee's apparent weightlessness is irritating in the extreme. The reason the action in the the Matrix seemed believable was because of the context in which it was used - an alternate reality. Seeing a man fly around whilst kicking and punching his opponents in a modern-day setting is just so ridiculous it's almost funny.
The one scene which really showed off Jet's natural ability is when he utilised a hose as he would a rope dart, though even this scene is rendered fairly dull due to the "action" which proceeds it.

Having only Jet as the "real-deal" in terms of action also means that the battles involving the other black actors are consistently clunky in their execution. In fact, all Jet's opponents look slow and rigid when duelling with him, and as such, the fights aren't the least bit exciting - you always feel Jet is superior in both speed and skill. However, he does continually beat the crap out the relentlessly irritating Anthony Anderson, so that's a bonus!

The only aspect of the fight choreography I did enjoy was the use of what I can only describe as "Bone-Cam" shots. This technique uses an interior view of the the opponents skeleton, and the resulting broken bone is then shown in its fractured state. The technique reminded me of the interior shots used in the Chinese Hero/Blood Sword comics, and although it's only used about three times, is an effective tool.

PICTURE
9/10

This Anamorphic transfer is the high-point of the disc. It's sharp picture brings out large amounts of fine detail, not to mention giving the film a crisp appearance.
Black levels occasionally appear slightly off-black, but the majority of the time they're excellent - revealing very good shadow detail.
Colours are equally well-presented, with flesh-tones appearing natural throughout.
As expected from such a new film, print defects are non existent, as are artifacts, and apart from a rather clumsily placed layer-change, this is an excellent presentation.

SOUND
7/10

Apart from the odd piece of stereotypical "Chinese" music, which you will have heard a million times before in Hollywood films, the majority of the soundtrack is made up of Hip-Hop, Rap and R&B.
The use of the surrounds is fairly frequent and effective, and although I would have preferred more aggressive directional effects, the overall quality of the the mix is high. Having said that, dialogue was occasionally muffled.
However, one thing I really didn't like about the sound effects were the whooshing and hitting sounds used in the fight scenes. They made the movements seem somehow lethargic and really detract more than they add.

EXTRAS
7/10

A healthy number of extras are included on the disc, with the majority of them being worth checking out:
• Theatrical Trailer
• International Trailer
• Music Videos - "Come Back In One Piece" (Aaliyah), "Try Again" (Aaliyah) - God, I hate that song!
• Making Of "Try Again" Music video.

•Short Documentaries (Each about 5 mins long): "Stairway Dance", "Kung Fu Football", "A Benz, A Bike and Some Bad Ass Kung Fu", "The Hose", "Master On Fire", "Jet Lee Is Han", Aaliyah Is Trish".

•Featurettes: "Inside The Effects Process", "Diary Of A (Legal) Mad Bomber", "Anatomy Of A Stunt Man", "The Sound Stage".
•HBO First Look Special - "Making Romeo Must Die".
•DVD-ROM features: `A martial arts experience` game, Official Website on the disc.

CUTS / CHANGES

In order for the film to get a 15 certificate, Warner Bros. decided to agree to the BBFC's recommendation to cut 7 seconds of the movie.
I don't know what the excised segment contained, but I'd guess it was something along the lines of a head-butt or an ear-clap. Shame they couldn't have also cut the remaining 110 minutes as well...

CONCLUSION
6/10

Seeing Jet Lee in a big-budget Hollywood production is at once heart-warming, whilst also heartwrenching. A vehicle which not only ignores his acting ability, but also his physical grace, is one which he can do without.
Whilst the movie is not an abject failure, as a whole, it's a distinctly below average outing.
Romeo Must Die - but personally, I wish he'd never been born in the first place...

MOVIE 4/10
PICTURE
9/10
SOUND
7/10
EXTRAS
7/10
MENUS
8/10
PACKAGING
6/10
OVERALL 6/10