"It ain't always about the size of the guns, sometimes it's the bullet."
Quote is a lyric from the awesome lead-in song by
(2000) Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Jet Li's speed and martial arts skills, multiple
explosions, fist fights, gun fights, gnarly kills, a
motorcycle/car chase, and a CGI x-ray gimmick (first seen in
The Street Fighter) deliver action in Romeo Must Die like a
fist to the chest! When Jet beats up four prison guards while handcuffed and hanging upside down by one leg, you know you're in for some great fight scenes. Producer
Joel Silver and Director Andrzej Bartkowiak (fresh
off doing Lethal Weapon 4 together with Jet) paired up with
Corey Yuen (as martial arts choreographer—he would go on
do the Transporter series) and John Gaeta's Manex Visual Effects
company (they invented "bullet time" for
The Matrix) to make a series of seven impressive and entertaining beat-downs in this
atypical anti-action-movie-hero action movie.
I don't want to spoil all the good action scenes in this movie:
I cover all but the one with Aaliyah in this
I wrote for
I like that scene so much I wanted to leave it as a surprise.
you've never seen the movie, watch it and enjoy first before
reading this or my
"SO HOT YOU COOL, SO COOL YOU HOT"
Jet Li burst onto the American movie screen as the bad guy in Lethal Weapon 4. If looks could kill, Jet's icy stare and sex appeal alone were a lethal weapon. His fighting skills were so fast and fierce, they had to ask him to slow his movements down so
Mel Gibson could keep up, and they had to use both Mel and
Danny Glover at the end to try to take him out, otherwise
it wouldn't have been believable—it still wasn't. Jet Li KICKED
As evil and intense as Jet was in that movie, he's sweet and low key as the lead actor in this one. Romeo Must Die has almost none of the typical trash-talking braggadocio action movies are known for. Li comes off as a Regular Joe, but with mad skills and a grudge. He speaks very little, but each time he is forced to fight, seems to easily win against four to eight guys, and improvises all kinds of weapons and defensive uses for ordinary objects without killing anyone. (The severed-fire-hose-as-a-kusari-gama scene includes a backwards airborne shot through his legs!
Just a little phallic—Way to use your 'hose'!)
SO BAD YOU COOL, SO COOL YOU BAD
The typical action movie bad asses are the bad guys, and here
it's not good thing. The first time you see them,
they're wearing long jackets and sunglasses. Compared to Jet Li
as "Han" at 5' 6", Russell Wong as "Kai" is 6', Isaiah Washington
"Mac" is 6' 1", and Trish's father Delroy Lindo as "Isaak" is 6'
4". Everyone but Han thinks he's the shit. Mac and Kai dress to
impress, walk with a swagger, and wear shades like they're too
cool to take them off at night or inside. This movie is chock
full of swinging dicks with fancy clothes, fancy cars, and fancy
ideas of who they are ("serious façade"). They're ambitious,
greedy, and amoral, and the movie seems to say that these traits
will cause your downfall. Most of the mouthing off comes from
the comic relief Anthony
Anderson who's full of himself, not afraid to show it, and
always stealing the show. My favorite moment is when Mac (great name) tries to mack on
"Trish" (Mac's daughter played by Aaliyah), gets shot down and
storms out. On his way out he has to pass by Anthony Anderson as
"Maurice" aka "Moron" who mocks him:
"Hey Mac, you're so smooove
with the ladies, baby!"
This may have been a Jet Li movie, but
it was also The Anthony Anderson Show. And what's an action
movie without a wise-cracking smart ass?
There is surprisingly little female exploitation/misogyny in this
action movie. Trish, the lead character is such a good girl,
that the bad girls (there are three) seem to be there only to
show that the men they are with are immature losers. Colin,
Trish's older brother, and his girlfriend are smoking pot, but
only the girlfriend is undressed (in a bra and panties with an
open robe). When someone knocks, she answers the door with the
robe hanging open. Refreshingly, the movie actually seems pro-good girl as the
message is that a good girl is worth fighting for and
protecting, and that bad things happen to shallow, stupid men
who hang out with loose women.
ACT ONE: M.I.A.
The action is fun but the story is missing some empathy to me. I
couldn't help but wonder why the
young Han and his brother Po were floating in the ocean, hanging
on to a basketball, and how they got there? What was the father's
crime that landed Han in jail to protect his father and his
little brother? Why did they then leave for America? What
happened to the mother?
If the father abandoned the boys until
it suited him to take take off to America with Po,
what was Po doing all that time until he went off to America
leaving Han behind. Maybe the father
promised Han if he went to jail for them, he would take care of
his little brother, then
it would have seemed more relatable when Han
hears (in jail) that his brother is dead (shaking spoon scene) as a broken
promise. Also how long he had been in jail for would have
added to the understandable anger. As he starts to investigate, I think if they did
a better job of showing Han suspected his father (they hinted at
it once in the conversation they have where Han's father tries
to cast suspicious on Isaak), then it would have been more
suspenseful to see him prove it.
It's not enough that Han is avenging his brother's death.
If the father had been shown to be uncaring maybe in contrast
to a caring mother (who Han made a promise to to take care of his
little brother), then we might have been invested in seeing him
get taken down. As it was, we get only a glimpse that he is bad,
and by then it's way into the movie and by then it can also be
blamed on Kai. It's not until the final scene where we realize
the extent of the father's evil. I would have liked to see the
suspicion that his father is evil drive Han through solving the
murder. We don't get a hint of this until the final scene with
him. It's as if Han is pissed that he went to jail to protect
his brother and his brother got killed anyway, but the extent of
the father's ambitions are the cause and this is not revealed
until the end. That he would sacrifice his own son to make a
business deal. Had he sacrificed the two boys to the ocean
so to speak, it would have set up a pattern for a pay off. No
one would have wanted to believe the father capable of that but
without the suspicion the anger doesn't build and doesn't seem
as deserving or justifiable to make it satisfying. Instead, it's
ACT TWO: ROMANCE
Overall, the movie is enjoyable anyway with lots of great action, and perhaps the way it
was set up made Han who he was, less violent and scary, more
lovable. If he was out for vengeance against a father who had
wronged him once already, he may not have come off as sweet as
he did, which made the developing relationship with Trish so nice.
It's a little bit of a romance (missing a kiss at the end!), very
hip and cool, with a great soundtrack. A watch-it-over-and-over movie, you'll enjoy every time.