Plot: What’s it about?
Han (Jet Li) has just busted out of prison and is headed for the United States where he hopes to learn who killed his younger brother and why. It seems that there is much tension between Han’s father and his faction and an African-American group in the area, with the main problems involving some waterfront property which is worth a whole ton of cash. While the two factions have a peace agreement on some level the son of the Chinese leader is murdered, though no one seems knows for sure by whom. Isaak (Delroy Lindo) is the leader of the African-American faction and he tries to smooth things over with the Chinese group, but it seems as though the Chinese believe he was involved in the slaying. While the two factions bustle about trying to secure and then purchase waterfront property, Han tries to discover whatever he can about his brother’s death and ends up befriending Isaak’s daughter Trish (Aaliyah), with both of them wanting to avoid the violence that exists between their families. When Isaak’s son is soon murdered the tension rises to a whole new level and it seems that no one is able to know just who they can trust.
This is the first American feature film leading role for action superstar Jet Li and I am pleased with the results. I follow the movies of Li so I was unsure what to expect from his American debut, but I was impressed with the blend of action and story which was almost perfect. The fight scenes were not randomly placed which makes for a more powerful film to be sure. Li also performs in some scenes based on American ideas to entertaining results, such as the football game with Mac’s thugs. I am not a big fan of rap or hip hop music by any means, but the urban tone and setting of this movie is backed up to perfection by the soundtrack, which is of course rap and hip hop based. This is a loose and free take on Romeo and Juliet and I think it makes for an acceptable one, though it strays often from that path. The writing is very good and offers plenty of quips and jokes as well as a well driven storyline. Is this Jet Li’s best movie? Not even close, but it does belong in the collection of all of his fans as it provides a terrific ride from start from finish. I recommend this movie and disc to those in search of an action movie with some heart and a purchase or rental would be money well spent.
This film was directed by Andrzej Bartowiak, who has more experience as a cinematographer than a director, though his visual presence comes through in this film very well. It is his visual presence that makes this movie so fun to watch as he uses angles, filters, and placements that maximize visual impact, which is fantastic for an action driven movie like this. If this is any hint toward his future films I am looking forward to some breathtaking visuals from him soon. Bartowiak served as cinematographer on such films as Falling Down, Speed, The Devil’s Advocate, and Species. Jet Li takes the lead in this movie, his first American lead and runs with it quite well. He is able to showcase his martial arts skills as well as show some potential as an actor, not just a guy that kicks and punches. Li (My Father Is A Hero, Fist of Legend) still has a ways to go if we wants to become more than a martial arts superstar, but I think he has the skills to pull it off. The supporting cast in this movie is quite good as well and includes Edoardo Ballerini (The Pest), Delroy Lindo (Ransom), Aaliyah, Russell Wong (New Jack City), Anthony Anderson (Big Momma’s House), and Isaiah Washington (Out of Sight)
Video: How does it look?
Romeo Must Die is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is a very visual movie so I am pleased with this near reference visual presentation, which is free from compression errors and uses a pristine source print. The movie switches from darker locales to colorful areas a lot in this movie, but this transfer handles every transition without a hitch. The colors stream across the screen with vibrant hues and flesh tones look normal and warm. The contrast is deep and inky, but hardly ever obscures detail and always offers complex shadow structure. I did see some overly dark regions, but these were infrequent and minor in nature.
Audio: How does it sound?
If you’re looking for a movie that likes to get loud then this one might be a good choice. Whether the action is lighting up the surrounds or the soundtrack is making your subwoofer work overtime, you’ll always be hearing a terrific mix with the included Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The sound is most impressive when the action heats up, such as the football game or one of the many fight scenes, but the subtle audio is also well placed, so the atmosphere is full and complete. You’ll never miss a word either as this track offers crisp and clear vocals at all times.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This one is a loaded disc and starts off with U.S. and international theatrical trailers as well as some brief talent files. This release also includes music videos for Aaliyah’s Try Again as well as a four minute behind the scenes featurette on how the video was done. A second music video is also included, Come Back In One Piece by Aaliyah with DMX. This disc also includes the HBO First Look Special, Making Romeo Must Die which offers a nice look behind the scenes of the movie. This one runs about fifteen minutes and is loaded with behind the scenes footage and interviews. You’ll also find a wealth of brief but informative featurettes on this release, which combine to offer an in depth look at the more charged scenes from the movie. These minidocumentaries include interviews with Jet Li, Aaliyah, and Anthony Anderson as well as scene spotlights on Anatomy Of A Stunt, Inside The Visual Effects Process, Diary Of A (Legal) Mad Bomber, The Sound Stage, Stairway Dance, Kung Fu Football, A Benz A Babe And Some Badass Kung Fu, and Master On Fire. Like I said these might be quite short, but they are a welcome inclusion nonetheless.