Copyright 1999-2003 3BlackChicks Enterprises™. All Rights Reserved.

Bams' review of
Romeo Must Die


Romeo Must Die (2000)
Rated R; running time 120 minutes
Genre: Action
Official site:
IMDB site:
Written by: Eric Bernt (based on the story by Mitchell Kapner)
Directed by: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Cast: Jet Li, Aaliyah, Delroy Lindo, Isaiah Washington, Russell Wong, Henry O, Anthony Anderson, Edoardo Ballerini, Jon Kit Lee, D.B. Woodside, DMX

Review Copyright Rose Cooper, 2000

(click here to skip to this movie's rating)

Alright everybody, raise your Suspension Of Disbelief Bar higher...a little higher...c'mon, Billy, higher than that!...okay, that's just about high enough. Ready for a little high-kickin' adventure and fun, with a whole lot of "oh, come on now...but, dayam!" thrown in for good measure? Then step right up and grab your ticket for Romeo Must Die...

THE STORY (WARNING: **spoilers contained below**)
The Sings and the O'Days are not your Typical American Family: they are the Hatfields and McCoys, the Jets and Sharks, the Montagues and the Capulets, of the Oakland California riverfront, slugging it out over property rights that are meaningful only to a greedy few.

[Billy, raise that Suspension Of Disbelief Bar back up, y'hear?]

Isaak O'Day (Delroy) wants to get out of the gangster racket and become a legitimate businessman, and take his daughter Aaliyah (Trish O'Day), son Colin (D.B. Woodside), and right-hand man Mac (Isaiah Washington), with him. Standing in his way is one last deal, securing riverfront property to sell to NFL development broker Roth (Edoardo Ballerini) - himself also dealing O'Day's rival overlord, Chu Sing (Henry O) and his Family: his spoiled son Po Sing (Jon Kit Lee), and Chu's lieutenant Kai (Russell Wong). Isaak and Chu know it's Just Business, until someone kills Po - and in the words of Po's ex-cop brother, Han Sing (Jet Li), "That...was a mistake".

Based on its trailers, Romeo Must Die was a Must See Movie for me. Sure, I knew it was another in a long line of "chop sockey" action flicks that was probably high on flash and low on substance; certainly, nothing we've not seen before countless times. Sure, I knew that Aaliyah and DMX would probably not be burning up the screen, thespianly. Sure, I knew that Romeo Must Die was delegated to the Unspoken Ghetto of release days for "Black" films - Wednesday nights - most likely because of its "violence quotient" (more on this in the "Black Factor" below). But heck, it had Jet Li - the only good thing about Lethal Weapon 4 - so it couldn't be half bad, could it? "Half bad", actually, is a good descriptor here.

One thing most people don't go to see "karate" flicks for, is the story; just like guys don't really Read Playboy For The Articles, few people go to action-adventures expecting to see, well, Shakespeare. In that sense, Romeo Must Die didn't disappoint too much; the audience was asked to swallow some pretty far-fetched stuff (including stunts that would've made the folks behind The Matrix proud), and to a great extent, we played along. Some of us whilst rolling our eyes, but that's to be expected when one can spot the Obligatory Turncoat only a few minutes into the movie, and see the unsurprising developments unfold from a mile away. No, the story in and of itself didn't bother me - but the three card monty-like misdirection of its underlying premise, did.

By all indications, Romeo Must Die should have at least the slightest of love story Issues, no? If the movie's title doesn't give that implication away, then the "rival gangs with a boy and a girl from different backgrounds meet and fall in love" hints in the trailers, would, one would think. One would be wrong. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that virtually no genuine "love story" between Aaliyah's Trish or Jet's Han, could be found on the reels that I saw, and further, that whoever came up with the breathless "tags" for the movie - "A young Chinese businessman in New York is asked to broker peace between two mobs..."; "Han soon takes his brother's place in the war and becomes entangled in the violence, until he falls in love with the daughter of the rival gang's leader..." - must've seen a much different movie than did I. Flirt, they did; but if that's what they call "love", I just don't want any.

Good thing, then, that my main interest wasn't in seeing Jet Li and Aaliyah lock lips. What I did go to see was Jet kick butt and take names - and he, along with Russell Wong, obliged in high fashion. I would do them both an injustice in trying to describe their martial artistry as performed on screen; "poetry in motion" is as close as I can get. Though it was taken a bit too far over the top - my reference to "Matrix"-like moves wasn't an exaggeration, nor was it a compliment - Jet Li especially impressed me in this, his second American film. Having the skills of Bruce Lee, and the charm and humor of Jackie Chan, Li's quiet, yet powerful presence should lead the way for more (and hopefully, better) American movie roles in the near future.

All else blended into the background, for the most part. Lindo and Washington gamely gave their Gruff Black Gang Overlords roles their best shot, but far outdistancing them were Henry O and Wong; even in his scenes sans martial arts, Wong was quite enjoyable to watch, as was O, especially when playing against Li. As casino owner Silk, Rap artist DMX barely registered on the radar; but on a positive note, Anthony Anderson's comic relief bit as Maurice, one of O'Day's bodyguards, was funny enough to elicit a laugh or two along the way.

All in all, not earth-shaking, but not too shabby for a Wednesday night at the movies. Hold up: a Wednesday night? Hmmm...

THE "BLACK FACTOR"    [ObDisclaimer: We Are Not A Monolith]

"If it's Wednesday, a Black film must be opening".
So says James Surowiecki in his article on the subject of seemingly obligatory releases of many "Black" (as Suroweicki calls them, "urban") movies on Wednesday instead of Friday. Though it is not officially acknowledged by the folks who decide when releases will occur, the pattern of a great deal of "Black" movies being released on Wednesdays, can be traced back to 1993's New Jack City and Boyz N The Hood - not coincidentally, the same time that some knuckleheads of the black persuasion, decided to ruin it for the rest of Us by opening fire at and around a few theaters showing the movies.

The rest, as they say, is History. A history that infuriates me on the one hand - unspoken or not, one would be hard-pressed to look at the trend and excuse it away as Business As Usual - but on the other hand, as heinous as it is, I understand why it's being done. And that leaves an awful choice to face: should we choose, even with the best of intentions, racism - and I'm sorry, but if the trend holds out, it cannot be described as anything other than that, from my understanding of the term - for the sake of safety (and unquantified safety at that)? And if not, then what do we do if (when?) the next knucklehead with a pistol and a pass to a Friday opening, shoots someone?

The "Salon" article is good reading; check it out. And don't just stop there; watch carefully for the trend yourself. As long as there are short-sighted planners in Hollywood - and ignorant knuckleheads amongst Us - there is no doubt in my mind that segregation For The Greater Good, shall continue to exist.

[3BC thanks various members of the "scaalist" email discussion group for their messages which led to this "Black Factor" segment. Special thanks go to Tanya Stephens for pointing me toward the Salon article.]

Politics aside, I don't know if a Friday release would make much of a difference here; the appeal is in the butt-kicking, not in the gunplay. And in that, it has few rivals - but that only accounts for a few minutes out of two hours. Most def not a good thing.



Green for the kick-butt action and stunts, soundtrack by Stanley Clarke (and Timbaland, if you like Hip Hop) and for its light humor, but...


...Yellow for everything else.

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And that's the way I see it.

Rose "Bams" Cooper
3BlackChicks Review™
Copyright Rose Cooper, 2000
EMAIL:    ICQ: 7760005

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Romeo Must Die | Here On Earth

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