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Movie Reviews

Romeo Must Die  

Han Sing (Jet Li)
Trish O'Day (Aaaliyah)
Kai Sing (Russell Wong)
Mac (Isaiah Washington)
Isaak O'Day (Delroy Lindo)
Silk (DMX)
Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak Written by Mitchell Kapner, Eric Bernt and John Terrell
Rated R for violence, language and nudity
Running Time: 115 minutes Distributed by Warner Bros.

Romeo Must Die
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Romeo Must Die is a film that has some problems, but I still found it enjoyable. The film follows the background of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. However, this film is nothing like the Shakespearean play. Set in modern-day, two families are locked in a brutal war. Asian and African American gangs are fighting for control of Oakland's waterfront. The first causality in the war is the Asian warlord's son Po. The news of the murder gets back to Po's brother, Han (Li), who is an ex-cop, wrongly imprisoned in a Hong Kong jail. After Han stylishly breaks out of prison, he makes his way back to America to avenge his brother's death. Han ironically becomes attached to the African American warlord's daughter Trish (Aaaliyah) to help him find Po's killer. As Han and Trish's feelings become stronger for one another, the gang wars become more dangerous.

Romeo Must Die is a pretty fun movie to watch, but the film has many flaws. Though the plot is something everybody has seen before in films, it stands a strong backdrop for this action movie. However, I didn't find the Shakespearean love story to be the film's plot. I saw Romeo Must Die as a film about betrayal.

Mitchell Kapner, John Terrell and Eric Barnt wrote Romeo Must Die. The sequencing in the film is jumpy and a lot of the dialogue is stale. Though most of the plot points in the film are answered, the subplot of each family's attempt to control the Oakland waterfront becomes complicated. The script's character relationships are blended in well with intense action scenes. The only scene that I really hated in this film was the football scene. In this scene, Han ends up kicking the bad guy's butts and scores a touchdown in a matter of seconds. I saw this scene as really cheesy. Overall, the script for Romeo Must Die has some problems, but it is a lot better than most of the other martial art movie scripts (Ex. Supercop, First Strike).

The direction by Andrzej Bartkowiak has a few good qualities and a few bad qualities. First the good qualities, Bartkowiak does a patient job of focusing the story first in this film, and the action second. I also thought that the Bartkowiak's colorful and computer inner body direction in the fight scenes was unique. This aspect reminded me of one of David O. Russell's directorial concepts from last year's Three Kings. The bad quality is that Barkowiak doesn't let his Jet Li use his athletic ability to fight. Instead, the director uses computer effects to make Li fly around and kick guys in mid air. I know that Li has terrific abilities and quickness, we saw this with his fight scenes in Lethal Weapon 4. I just think it would have made all the fight scenes more believable. These fake fight scenes look like aspects taken right out of The Matrix, in which Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne flyed around for a purpose.

The overall acting in this film isn't that good, but how many action films have good acting. The only good performances in the film were by Delroy Lindo, who plays Isaak, and Russell Wong, who plays Kai. Lindo shows a bold presence as the head African American gang leader. Wong shows very high confidence in his performance as the Asian gang's best fighter. Jet Li is a very gifted martial artist, his English is still blocky, but it will get better with time. I also hope to see Li doing all of his own fight scenes in his future films, instead of seeing him as a flying computer image. Singer Aaaliyah makes her acting debut in Romeo Must Die as Trish, who is Han's love interest. She shows a lot of inexperience as an actress, she might get better, but don't expect her to be that impressive. The worst performance in Romeo Must Die was by Isaiah Washington, who played Isaak's right hand man Mac. Washington delivers a spoiled performance as the mean and hard-nosed villain.

Overall, I found Romeo Must Die as an enjoyable movie. It has a specific targeted audience, which are men who like action and martial arts films. I thought that the betrayal story mixed in well with the action, even though all of it was fake. Romeo Must Die will probably please its targeted audience, but everybody else might find it cheesy and dumb.

Romeo Must Die has already made its 25 million dollar budget back in its first week of release. However, the film has drop nearly 50% in its second week out. This confirms that every person that wanted to see Romeo Must Die has already seen it. The film is still declared a modest box office hit.

Report Card Grade: B-

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