Jet Li. I confess, I love the guy. I love seeing him in the movies, kicking backside and doing all of his magical kung fu stuff. Now that previous box office winners like Van Damme and Seagal are sitting helplessly on the STV racks, Jet Li is the only persistent martial artist out there giving his fans the kind of films they want to see. But his Hollywood career (and let us remember he is only in his third year of it) has been somewhat choppy. Li seems to alternate between making good and bad films on rota. His debut was as the baddie in LETHAL WEAPON 4, which despite entirely negative reviews was a film I really enjoyed due to the well-staged action and stunt sequences. Next was ROMEO MUST DIE, his first "heroic" role but one I missed out on. Then Li made KISS OF THE DRAGON, which is by far my favourite film of his, an authentic and hard-hitting kung-fu flick, an action film like they used to make in the old days. Then recently he came up with THE ONE which was another letdown.
Sadly ROMEO MUST DIE falls into the pattern as one of the misses rather than the hits and my recent viewing substantiates this. Basically, the plot is a spin on the age-old Shakespeare romantic tragedy, except this time the gangs are Chinese and black, to give it a modern multi-cultural appeal. Ignore the Chinese aspect of the story, which is played down majorly, as instead this is more of a modern urban black story of street violence and, like Seagal's EXIT WOUNDS, consists of large black men making unfunny jokes and unappealing R&B music playing over lots of expository sequences. The would-be coolness of the production is a long way from those classic days of '70s blaxploitation and instead this feels like a watered down version that has lost its bite.
Unfortunately the film never seems to know what kind of a movie it wants to be. Despite the title and Shakespeare connections, it never works out as a romance as Li and Aaliyah never even get to kiss. The martial arts stuff is kept to a basic minimum and tends to be ruined by some godawful CGI effects which make Li do impossible manoeuvres in the air like kicking nine people and then jumping up again, spinning around and kicking another five. Plus, many of the fights are supposed to be "funny" (examine the appalling football-fight), leaving us with a string of half-hearted action sequences which fail to engage the blood rush an adrenaline junkie hopes for. At least Li got back to basics with KISS OF THE DRAGON, which offered straightforward fighting and hardcore violence to the max.
The acting isn't bad, but it's just that the various roles are rather uninteresting. Some – like Isaiah Washington's villain – are over-simplified no end, whilst others like Delroy Lindo's shady gangster are just too complicated so you never really know which side they're on. Li isn't bad as the hero, but he feels a bit awkward in places, something which he has happily cleared up in more recent ventures. Aaliyah is also surprisingly good in her film debut, although not quite Oscar worthy. Lindo, as always, puts in an excellent supporting role. One aspect the film does have in its favour are the violent X-ray images, where Li hits an opponent and we get to see the various bones breaking on the skeleton, although thirty seconds of the harder stuff has once more been excised by the worthless censors that our country employs. So overall I would skip this eventual disappointment and instead seek out the next movie of Li's Hollywood career.
Romeo Must Die
Action / Crime / Thriller
Romeo Must Die
Action / Crime / Thriller
In this modern day Romeo and Juliet, kung fu action star Jet Li plays Romeo to hip-hop singer, Aaliyah Haughton's Juliet. Li is an ex-cop investigating the murder of his brother, who had ties with the Chinese mafia in America. Aaliyah plays the daughter of the American mob boss. Neither side approves of their romance, so, obviously, kung fu action ensues, with a soundtrack by Aaliyah.
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August 11, 2012 at 01:17 AM