Volume 93, Issue 94

Tuesday, March 28, 2000


Here on Earth has no place on Earth

Teen flick missing what it takes

Special effects keep Romeo alive

Valvola rework organic electronica

Special effects keep Romeo alive

By Aaron St. John
Gazette Staff

It's been a few years since someone had the idea of dubbing Hong Kong action movies and releasing them in North American theatres. This proved to be a shrewd move and as a result, Chinese movie icons such as Jackie Chan and Chow Yun-Fat have become stars in North America with quite successful American movies.

The reason these films do so well is because they represent a shift from the traditional action flick formula. Bloated, big budget and rather boring films starring Schwarzenegger and Stallone just don't seem to capture the imagination of North American audiences anymore.

The high energy, stylish feel of Hong Kong action movies, with their amazing displays of physical prowess in the shape of skillfully choreographed fight scenes, is exactly the remedy these kinds of films need to reinvigorate the genre.

After appearing in what was a prime example of the stereotypically bad action film, the fourth installment in the tired Lethal Weapon series, as well as the ill-fated Black Mask, Asian martial arts star Jet Li makes another attempt at mainstream success with Romeo Must Die.

Loosely based on William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the film tells the story of two warring crime families of Asian and African-American descent. Just like the original, things get complicated when a child from each of the families (Li and hip-hop songstress Aaliyah, in her film debut), become romantically involved. This leads to tension, as the two families attempt to best each others' efforts to keep their kids separated.

In terms of action, Romeo Must Die is no disappointment. The film boasts several remarkable scenes which feature some incredibe acrobatics and utilize Matrix-like special effects (and a cool new technique where, after a particularly hard hit, the camera zooms in to show an X-ray of the internal damage). One of these sequences features Li using Aaliyah's body as a weapon, because being the chivalrous guy he is, he doesn't want to hit the woman he's fighting with his own fists and feet. It's a wonderful set-piece.

Unfortunately, the rest of the film is not as good. The plot features several paper-thin twists which are clearly intended to be suspenseful. Delroy Lindo (The Cider House Rules) is wonderful as one of the crime bosses and Anthony Anderson provides some comic relief with his pratfalls and one-liners, but the remainder of the cast is nothing short of horrendous.

Li doesn't speak English very well and Aaliyah proves herself to be remarkably wooden. The addition of rapper DMX is clearly motivated only to sell tickets – what has he ever done to make anyone think he can act?

As an entertaining diversion, Romeo Must Die works well. The fight scenes are among the best ever put to film. But with a weak script and horrible performances, it ultimately adds up to a major disappointment.

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Copyright The Gazette 2000