"Some you win,
and dim sum you lose."
Romeo Must Die
Review by Ross Anthony

Glaring streaks of reflected streetlights rebound off a black sedan as it parks sharply next to a silver sports car. Beat. Like synchronized swimmers, five Romeo Must Diedoors swing open, five Chinese thugs in suits step out. Beat. Camera pans sharp Chinese guy with cool shades as he pops out of sports car to lead the gang into hip-hip club for a little "exercise." Cool is the paint of this American-made Hong Kong-style martial arts film.

Rival gangs attempt to curb contempt for each other in order to secure a jointly profitable business deal. Asian family on one side, African American on the other. Mutual respect via mutual fear. News of an irresponsible murder of one prominent member compromises the truce and prompts Jet Lee to bust his Hong Kong prison chains and fly to the States to avenge his brother's death. He's not interested in truces or illegal commerce - he wants revenge.

In his search for the slayer Jet stumbles across help from the daughter of the black gang's leader; she's recording artist, Aaliyah - Juliet (if you will). Top rap artist, DMX also makes an appearance.

The high powered warlords are brought to real life with conviction by Delroy Lindo and Henry O, their second-in-commands (Isaiah Washington and Russell Wong) also do a kick-butt job of acting and re-acting. Pawn thug, Anthony Anderson, maneuvers smoothly between punches and punch lines. He's very funny.

Jet li, of course, is loveably dangerous, saying it all as he silently shuffles across an oriental garden bridge carrying his late brother's deflated basketball. Well, actually, he does have a bit more to say with his fists, twists and computer graphic assists. In one charming brawl, Lee manages to de-belt his opponent. As the pants fall to the ground, Lee fastens the poor guy's harry leg to his head with the belt.

Though this is definitely an action flick, "Romeo" does a fair job of portraying compelling and interesting relationship pairings in-between and during scuffles. Hand-to-hand and Heart-to-heart, and don't forget the tasteful funnybone-to-funnybone relief. Not in the now-popular, laden fashion via comedic-costar as in "Rush Hour," here the humor is an added flavor, not an equal balance.

Aside from acceptable improbabilities in fight set-ups etc., "Romeo's" only mars are: 1) D.B. Woodside wavers in his role as gang-leader Isaac's number one son. 2) a scene in which a Mercedes catches up to a BMW motorcycle in less than 100 feet. I don't think so. 3) Strong from beginning to end, the climax isn't weak, but not as resounding as the beginning and middle, despite the low frequency thuds that resonate front row seats as the titans plant fist to bone.

Still these imperfections are no match for the strong acting, fun dialogue, graceful agility of Jet Li, and cool direction of first time director Andrzej Bartkowiak. It's just a big cool fun movie.

  • Romeo Must Die. Copyright © 2000. Rated R.
  • Starring Jet Li, Aaliyah, Isaiah Washington, Russell Wong, Delroy Lindo
  • Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak.
  • Screenplay by Eric Bernt and John Jarrell. Story by Mitchell Kapner
  • Produced by Warren Carr at Silver/Warner Bros.


Copyright © 2000. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 07:55:43 PDT