Eye For Film >> Movies >> Romeo Must Die (1999) Film Review
Romeo Must Die
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
Ever since the early years of Bruce Lee, Hong Kong martial arts movies have been innovative. There is also an integrity about them, often lacking in Hollywood.
Jet Li is the latest Eastern star to go West. Other than Lethal Weapon 4, in which he played a peroxide killing machine, injecting much-needed energy into the movie, this is his Californian debut as an above-the-title draw.
He is a small man, with unmemorable boyish looks, who was born in Beijing, His fighting technique is not dissimilar to Jackie Chan's, in the sense that he uses ordinary objects as weapons. There is a sequence here in which he takes on five thugs while shackled at the wrists and strung upside down by a rope.
There is an element of The Godfather to the story, with a Shakespearean touch to its power struggles. The waterfront at Oakland is divided equally between the Asian warlord, Ch'u Sing (Henry O), and the black gangster, Isaak O'Day (Delroy Lindo). Both are negotiating with a white entrepreneur in connection with a multimillion dollar sports stadium.
When Ch'u Sing's son is found hanging from a tree in a leafy suburb and his other son, Han (Lee), escapes from a high security prison, the temperature heats up between the rival gangs. Han's unexpected friendship with O'Day's daughter, Trish (Aaliyah) also doesn't help matters.
The film has an admirable discipline, encouraged by Li's unshowy style. The fight sequences are choreographed like dance routines, using slo-mo to great advantage.
Actors of the calibre of Lindo. Isaiah Washington and Russell Wong add weight. The script covers the cliches, which, in this kind of movie, is a way of paying respect.
The stunts are scary and the action tight. Lee is a serious contender. His English is good and his attitude focused. Pop singer Aaliyah, in her first acting role, shows spirit. She's a beautiful girl, with real star potential, who goes that little bit further.Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001