a critiQal film review Romeo Must Die (2000)

Plot: When his brother is killed in an Oakland gang battle, Han Sing (Li) comes to America to search for the killer. During his investigation, he meets Trish O'Day (Aaliyah), the daughter of the rival gang leader. Despite their family's fight, Trish and Han get together to find the killer and search for the true cause of the gang war.

375 words (Est. Reading Time 1m 52s)
  • ...Aaliyah holds her own in this Jet Li martial arts pic.

Jet Li, hot off his role in Lethal Weapon 4 (1998), teams with super songstress Aaliyah for this action-packed Romeo and Juliet-inspired film. Setting this movie apart from the plethora of action movies is a good storyline, stunning visual effects, and the extremely likable Aaliyah in her first of only two movie roles before her untimely death (Queen of the Damned (2002) was the second – too bad that didn’t match up to this film.)

The characters are well acted, and everyone seems to really sink their teeth into their roles. Jet Li shows why he’s an international star, with his lightning-fast martial arts moves and decent acting to boot. Aaliyah gets a great introductory role, and shows surprising acting ability. Delroy Lindo also does a good job as Trish’s father and Isaiah Washington and Russell Wong both do well also as the second in command for each gang.

The plot is pretty good too. It takes the classic elements of Romeo and Juliet – warring families, forbidden love – and updates them with a martial arts twist. While the plot isn’t too deep, the likable characters and decent acting make it interesting. It also doesn’t just throw in some martial arts and forget about the plot, as too many martial arts movies do. All of the scenes help further the plot, making them much more worthwhile.

The special effects are amazing. At certain points during the film, the camera zooms in to do a sort of moving x-ray. It’s something that hasn’t been done before and it’s a great effect. Some of the fight scenes do make a little too much use of wires (my philosophy: if you can tell they used wires, it’s overdone), but not so much as to detract much from the scene. Besides, Jet Li’s amazing martial arts expertise more than makes up for it. The fire hose scene, for example, is amazing. How does he do that?

With a new twist to a classic storyline, amazing visual effects, good acting and a simply stunning martial artist in Jet Li, Romeo Must Die is the perfect film when you’re on the lookout for a good action flick.

And please, if you want to see Aaliyah act, skip Queen of the Damned (2002) and give Romeo a try instead.

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