This is a modern day tale of Romeo and Juliet with a nice dose of martial arts and not so nice criminal violence. Like the Shakespearean play, two opposites attract and despite the resentment between the two bloodlines, Han Sing and Trish O’Day are under Cupid’s spell. Unlike the original romantic story though, for what’s lacking in the love department here is more than compensated for by punches and kicks!
Jet Li is Han Sing the protagonist in the film, a nice guy fighting against the criminal image inherited from his father. Kai, played by Russell Wong is Han’s father’s second in command, a loyal but envious man. Anthony Anderson is the comic relief in the movie, his character Maurice comes equipped with ample cheesy one liners to keep one amused while he himself frequently ends up the butt of every joke.
This was the first movie role for the music artist Aaliyah who played Trish O’Day the Juliet to our Romeo.
Two families’ criminal empires cross swords with one another. When Han’s brother is murdered in gang related violence he becomes unstoppable in his quest to find and kills the perpetrators.
From the very beginning bones are broken and props are smashed as Han’s brother stirs up trouble in rival gang territory. Kai, a henchman of Han’s father tries to restore peace but when insulted cannot help himself and unleashes a first class beat down on the rival gang. He takes on multiple opponents hurling them through glass and pretty much pounding them into submission.
The next treat of brutal action is at a Chinese prison where Han learns of his brother’s death. Fueled with rage he has only one motive, to avenge his brother.
He wastes no time putting his plan into action beginning with a riot in the canteen and physically punishing prison guards with a bowl of egg-fried rice. Strung upside down the guards prepare to take sweet vengeance on Han. But the pay back is short- lived as our acrobatic hero incapacitates every guard. Each blow is packed with power that causes that damage of the ominous variety namely, internal damage. The director uses x-ray CGI effects to show Han’s foe’s bones as they shatter and fracture.
Similar to the classic balcony scene from “Romeo and Juliet” Han visits Trish and runs into her father’s goons on exit. Han takes them out without breaking a sweat using cable ties to whip and apprehend the thugs, but not before humiliating them under Trish’s watchful eye.
The henchmen get their opportunity for vengeance when they invite Han to join in their game of American football. After a couple of barbaric tackles, Han learns that the game is a contact sport and begins to pass the ball to the opposing team while he gets busy making contact with his fists.
Han is old school and was taught never to hit girls but hitting a girl with a girl seems fine. Han unmasks one of his combatants to find a woman that he can’t physically hit stopping inches away each time. He then proceeds to use Trish as a weapon-cum-dance partner to fight back in an elegant dance routine fit for “Strictly Come Dancing”!
Another truly satisfying scene is towards the end of the film when Han is outnumbered by O’Day’s thugs. With his back against the wall he uses a fire hose as a rope dart in retaliation. Swooping and sweeping Han disarms and disperses the criminals like a cop at a cockfight. The fight choreography is outstanding and fully displays Han’s rope dart skills as he leaves no stone unturned or in this case, no one un-whipped.
The final fight scene is replete with suspense and overflows with heart thumping action. After learning the true identities of his brother’s killers Han unleashes all sorts of rage and bloodthirst on his rival. Engulfed in a circle of flames, both fighters give an all-out performance and that almost terrifying x-ray CGI effect emphatically features in a climactic move that sends chills down your spine!
“Romeo Must Die” is an emotively charged film with a plot that will throw and deceive the audience. The story brings together quite a clash of differences on the backdrop of race, culture and society whilst using minor elements taken from William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”. The use of wires throughout the film allows for a bit more fun with the fight sequences breaking the laws of physics. If you like action with twists, turns and a dash romance then certainly check this out!
- DMX, Jet Li and Anthony Anderson all played major roles in the 2003 action, crime drama film “Cradle 2 The Grave”.
- The bone-crunching fight scenes that use x-rays to show the internal damage caused was inspired by the x-ray punches used in Sonny Chiba’s (1974) film “The Street Fighter”.
- The scene where Han (Jet Li) uses a fire hose as a weapon has been made pretty popular in modern action films i.e., “Mr. Nice Guy” and “Transporter 2” had similar scenes were the main characters actually turned the hose into a deadly weapon.