Saturday, February 13, 2016

ROMEO MUST DIE (2000)



Directed By: Andrzej Bartkowiak 
Written By: Eric Bernt & John Jarrell 
Story By: Mitchell Kapner 
Cinematography By: Glen MacPherson 
Editor: Derek Brechin 

Cast: Jet Li, Aaliyah, Delroy Lindo, Isiah Washington, Russell Wong, Anthony Anderson, D.B. Woddside, DMX, Henry O, Terry Chen, Matthew Harrison, Edorado Ballerini, Grace Park

In this modern day Romeo and Juliet, kung fu action star Jet Li plays Romeo to hip-hop singer, Aaliyah Haughton's Juliet. Li is an ex-cop investigating the murder of his brother, who had ties with the Chinese mafia in America. Aaliyah plays the daughter of the American mob boss. Neither side approves of their romance, so, obviously, kung-fu action ensues.

Promoted more as an action, interracial romance. It ends up more an action film with a friendship in the middle.

The plot just seems like filler for us to get through and link the action scenes. Even as the film seems to depend more on plot and action then this fill would have you believe. I guess as this film was more an early prototype. For similar films that will come along. So the kinks aren't worked out yet. Nor the film making more simple and smooth.

As, As fast as it makes and how quick the edits are. It does feel dull and drags, quite a few times.

This is the first real American starring role for Jet Li after an impressive debut as a villain in LETHAL WEAPON 4.

The action scenes add a particular gimmick of seeing animated looking x-rays of breaking bones of the inhabitants in the fight scenes or seeing the actual blow that kills.

The x-ray "bone-breaking" sequences in the film are similar to a famous scene in Sonny Chiba's THE STREET FIGHTER [Gekitotsu! Satsujin ken ]. However, the ones in Romeo Must Die are far more advanced, presumably through the use of CGI. Similar fight scenes where Han is using a fire hose as a weapon of choice is used again by Jason Statham's character Frank Martin in TRANSPORTER 2

The Most impressive fight scene is having Jet Li use Aaliyah like a puppet to fight another woman trying to be more politically correct at the time.

The only factor that the film has to Romeo & Juliet is that the main characters are attached to warring families. Only here they are more or less crime families looking to go legit by buying into a stadium that is being built.

Anthony Anderson steals the film or at least the scene he is in. As the comedic relief bodyguard to Aaliyah's character. Which was the beginning of him taking roles in films. Such as these that started coming out yearly after this. That somehow mixed hip hop and R & B music stars and Kung fu action heroes. This continued through in films like HALF PAST DEAD, EXIT WOUNDS and FROM THE CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE.

DMX is top billed though more a vital cameo. We would see more of him truly loving up to his credit in NEVER DIE ALONE, FROM THE CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE and EXIT WOUNDS. Don't know if this introduction and roll out was a plan or worked out that way for the next few projects. Jet Li, DMX, and Anthony Anderson also star together in the action flick "Cradle to the Grave", DMX and Anthony Anderson would go on and star together again in Exit Wounds and Cradle 2 The Grave. Isaiah Washington would also star along with them in Exit Wounds.

Though the action sequences with Jet Li are as always what impress and stay with you, though they are so far and few in between it seems. That the film feels beneath him And his talents. As he really has no opponents and really is hair an American showcase for him. Figuring that as the African American community has a history of being fans of King-fu cinema it seems like a mix and match made in heaven.

Here he was just learning English, so most of his dialogue is in Chinese other then that seems just as fluent in his future American roles. Though i am sure the film holds all the elements. It's audience intends and demands. Just not as strong or impassive as it can be.

Though a nice bittersweet stepping stone for the burgeoning stars of the film. Sadly out of all the movies Aaliyah starred in, sadly this is really the best.

I saw this film in theaters. I was so looking forward to it, more to see Aaliyah on the big screen more than anything, but seeing Jet-Li in action didn't hurt. Nor did her single TRY AGAIN on the soundtrack.

This was one of the first films I ever watched, couldn't decide if I liked it or hated it. As I didn't pay for it everyone else around me seemed to like it, except me. I tried to convince myself I did, but on subsequent viewings realized how disappointing and dissatisfied. I was about it. Which also helped me to pinpoint exactly what i didn't like about the film. It was really one of the first films I really dissected to see what I saw as it's few strengths and many weaknesses. That I even wrote down. So I could always remember.

Though the film is fine within the context of when it came out where it was at least fashionable or at least contained the basic necessities of action. Though it is obvious more a film of it's time period as it doesn't age that well

It is also anti-romantic as all this trouble seems to stem not only from the reappearance of Jet li's character but also because of his burgeoning friendship with Aaliyah's character. Where there are hints of flirting. The film is a rarity in which it goes about purposely trying to avoid any real romantic connection between the characters. Which might also be due to li's obviously older nature and looks over her character. Though it is strange this is the rate film that seeks to not include that angle and goes out of it's way to safeguard it's own guidelines.

An alternate version of the ending was filmed in which Han and Trish kiss. It was reported that this ending was not liked by the test screening audience who were uncomfortable with an interracial romance. But according to Jet Li, it was deemed inappropriate for Han to be too romantic after seeing Chou's suicide so the ending without the kiss was used

I still think of this film as one of those could have been movies. As it has so much potential. At least it is entertaining for the most part.


GRADE: C-

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