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Romeo Must Die (2000) starstar

Reviewed 2001-06-22
: This film was just for action, so I had low expectations and the film delivered right on target. The "Romeo" of the title is kung fu action star Jet Li (last seen in Lethal Weapon 4), who character is actually called Second Look ReviewHan Sing. He escapes from a Chinese prison to avenge the murder of his brother, Po. There's something in the plot about buying into an NFL expansion franchise, which takes its inspiration from Romeo and Juliet -- with warring families this time being Chinese-American and African-American mobsters owning waterfront properties that have to be bought out (or otherwise acquired) to seal the deal -- except this time the Montagues are Chinese-American and the Capulets are African-American.

This has to be Romeo and Juliet on steroids or something, because when the inspiration lags the director pumps up the violence. The story is not so much about love between members of warring clans -- gorgeous Hip-Hop singer Aaliyah is the "Juliet," Trish O'Day -- as the film is about interracial violence, betrayal and intimidation. And Jet Li has some acting lessons to complete before he can play a convincing romantic lead, anyway. But since this isn't a Lifetime film, as an action film it was passable.

Postscript: That is what I wrote in June 2001. Two months later, 22-year-old Aaliyah died in a plane crash in the Bahamas. I thought she showed some promise as an actress. Sadly, now we will never know.

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Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance reviewer.