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Romeo Must Die

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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted July 22, 2000 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

After Martial Arts actor Jet Li amazed audiences in "Lethal Weapon 4", it was obvious that another Hollywood film would be developed to highlight his talents. The result is this slick, stylish action film from ace cinematographer Andrzej Bartkowiak, who makes his directorial debut here. The film has just enough plot to get by, but the action scenes are what really carry the film along.

A remake of "Romeo And Juliet" in Oakland, CA., "Romeo Must Die" stars Li as Han Sing, a cop who breaks out of a Hong Kong prison as the movie opens. He's there for a crime he didn't commit, and he's off to the USA to find the men who killed his brother. When he arrives, he meets Trish O'Day(R&B Singer Aaliyah, in her film debut). Their two families have been engaged in a turf battle, which threatens their relationship.

The head of one family (Delroy Lindo) is also trying to take over the city's waterfront area. This piece of the plot isn't given too much of a focus, but having a great actor like Lindo ("Get Shorty") makes the plot developments interesting. The rest of the cast also delivers solid performances, especially Li and newcomer Aaliyah, who doesn't have much of a role, but has a nice presence.

Fight scenes are obviously the focus of the film, but I found myself invested enough with the story and characters, as well. "Romeo Must Die" manages a nice mix of both plot and action, and first-time director Bartkowiak has certainly gathered an excellent crew, who give the movie a wild, gorgeous look. An entertaining action film with good performances.


VIDEO: This is about as good as it gets. Warner Brothers has done a marvelous job for "Romeo Must Die"; their effort here is incredibly good. This is a wild looking movie and the look translates extremely well to DVD. Sharpness is perfection - images are remarkably smooth and natural with excellent depth. The presentation is consistently very well-defined and clarity is never an issue; neither is detail, which is excellent. The film has a very surreal and beautiful color palette, full of deep, rich colors that look extremely solid on this presentation. Colors remain well-saturated and with no problems at all. Flesh tones are accurate and black level is extremely good.

There's no pixelation and only the slightest bit of shimmer, but the print used is crystal clear, with not the slightest mark, scratch or any other flaw. Cinematography by Glen MacPherson is stylish and pretty fascinating to watch. Warner Brothers usually does very strong work, but with "Romeo Must Die", they offer a disc that looks close to perfection.

SOUND: The audio for "Romeo Must Die" isn't hugely agressive, but quality in general is very, very good. The rap and r&b music that is placed throughout the score sounds great, with a deep, intense presence that fills the room with solid beats. Surrounds come into play more intensely during the action sequences, but otherwise, they offer the music. Bass is appropriately solid and deep, as well. Dialogue sounds clean and natural. The music is the star of the show, but the action sequences take center stage nicely when it's their turn, with explosions and gunfire.

MENUS:: Animated main menu, with clips from the film as well as the score in the background; the sub-menus are not animated, but images are laid out nicely.


Trailers: The US trailer (Dolby 2.0, letterboxed at 2.35:1); the international trailer (Dolby 2.0, letterboxed at 1.85:1). I actually kinda liked the international trailer better than the US version.

Music Videos: "Come Back In One Piece", by Aailyah, "Try Again" from Aailyah. Also included in this section is a "Making Of" featurette for the "Try Again" music video, which includes behind-the-scenes footage and interviews from both the singer and Jet Li. The featurette lasts 4 minutes or so.
Short Documentaries: These are a series of short featurettes that take a look at the filming of some of "Romeo Must Die"'s more intense fight sequences. These presentations basically take the audience, step-by-step through what it takes to film one of these sequences, from the preparation to the tasks of the other people who are on set. These documentaries last about a couple minutes each and are a very nice addition, informing the audience about what's involved in scenes like the ones featured in "Romeo Must Die". The documentaries are "Stairway Dance", "Kung Fu Football", "A Benz, A Bike, A Babe and some Bad-Ass Kung Fu", "The Hose", "Master On Fire", "Jet Li is Han", "Aaliyah is Trish", "Anthony Anderson is Maurice".

Featurettes: A series of 4 well-produced presentations on various aspects of the film.

Inside The Visual Effects Process: In this featurette, we learn about the process of creating some of the film's visual effects, as well as the company that created them, who was also responsible for "The Matrix". This featurette lasts a little under 4 minutes.

Diary Of A (Legal) Mad Bomber: This section takes a look at how the physical effects (explosions, etc) of "Romeo Must Die" were achieved. It also offers a pretty fascinating look at how a couple of stunt scenes are built from the ground up. This featurette lasts about 5 minutes.

Anatomy Of A Stunt: A pretty wild featurette that takes a look at a stuntwoman's perspective going into filming an action sequence for "Romeo Must Die". She takes us through all of the equipment and safety measures that have to be used for the movie, and we get to see the stunts being filmed. Very cool stuff, indeed.

The Soundstage: The final documentary takes a look at the process of recording and adding sound into the final movie, but unfortunately it's pretty short, with only a couple of moments showing the sound crew at work, and an interview. I would have liked to have learned even a little more here.

HBO First Look Special: Making "Romeo Must Die": This promotional featurette sort of summarizes all of the elements that the viewer learned about in the featurettes that this DVD offers, and includes some interviews. Interview subjects include the cast and crew, as well as the always energetic action producer Joel Silver. Behind-the-scenes clips of the production at work are also included, as the crew prepares and films some of the action sequences from the film. This documentary lasts about 14 minutes or so.

Also: Cast & Crew Bios.

DVD-ROM: The DVD-Rom portion of the supplements offers an interactive martial arts challenge, trailers for "Enter The Dragon", "The Matrix", "House On Haunted Hill" and "Lethal Weapon 4", as well as a soundtrack listening and the film's theatrical website.

Final Thoughts: "Romeo Must Die" is a very well-done and enjoyable action movie, and the presentation on this Warner Brothers DVD definitely is excellent. Audio and especially video quality are top-notch, and although I would have liked a commentary by the film's cast or crew, the additional features included are informative and entertaining. Definitely recommended. (August 1, 2000 Release) .

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Highly Recommended

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