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ROMEO MUST DIE ($25) is an example of American producers having a problem tailoring a movie for a Hong Kong action star like Jet Li. Fans of Hong Kong movies want to see a bit more action than ROMEO MUST DIE delivers; plus the center section of the movie is a bit slow and could have used another fight sequence. Additionally, the story line is supposed to be loosely adapted from ROMEO AND JULIET, hence the title, yet there doesnít seem to be any opportunities for romance between Li and his leading lady Aaliyah.

In ROMEO MUST DIE Jet Li portrays Han Sing, a Hong Kong police officer who went to prison to protect his crime lord father and crooked brother. Upon hearing about his brotherís death in America, Han breaks out of prison and makes his way overseas to confront his father and to find his brotherís killer. When Han arrives in America, he discovers that there is an uneasy truce between the Asian gang, lead by his father, and the rival African-American gang led by Isaak O'Day (Delroy Lindo). Of course, the murder of Hanís brother complicates matters, with both sides preparing for retaliation. As Han investigates his brotherís death, he becomes involved with Trish (Aaliyah), who happens to be Isaakís daughter. Like Romeo and Juliet, both families try to keep Han and Trish apart, but the two of them are determined to be together, if only to find the killer.

ROMEO MUST DIE has a number of impressive action sequences, as well as some inspired martial arts fight scenes that are stylistically similar to those found in THE MATRIX. While all of the action is high octane, there are a couple of slow patches in the film that will leave viewers fidgeting. Both Jet Li and Aaliyah are very good in their roles, so they canít be faulted for a weak script that doesnít give them enough opportunities to shine. The cast of ROMEO MUST DIE also features Isaiah Washington, Russell Wong, DMX, D.B. Woodside, Henry O, Edoardo Ballerini, Jon Kit Lee and Anthony Anderson.

Warner Home Video has done an impressive job with their DVD release of ROMEO MUST DIE. The film is properly framed at 2.35:1 and the DVD features the anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. Image quality is excellent, with everything appearing quite sharp and highly detailed. Flesh tones are accurately rendered, while the rest of the colors offer vivid saturation, with no signs of chromatic distortion. Blacks are pure, plus the image boasts very good shadow detail. Solid authoring keeps digital compression artifacts completely at bay.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has a high-energy action movie mix that is certain to please. Sound effects are aggressively deployed throughout the discrete channels, without sacrificing the intelligibility of the dialogue. Bass reproduction is very deep and very solid, so your subwoofer will get a chance to flex its muscles. A French 5.1 channel soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and French subtitles.

Animation, sound and full motion video have been added to the interface of the interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the expected scene selection and set up features. A number of supplements are included on the DVD; they too are accessible through the interactive menus. There are 12 behind-the-scenes mini documentaries on the DVD, which run several minutes each. The documentaries cover various aspects of the production, from special effects to martial arts to the filmís sound design. Also included, is the HBO First Look special for ROMEO MUST DIE, which runs approximately 15 minutes. Two music videos are featured on the DVD; "Come Back in One Peace" with DMX and "Try Again" with Aaliyah. The "Try Again" video also comes with a short making-of featurette. Two theatrical trailers and cast biographies fill out the video only portion of the supplements. ROMEO MUST DIE is also a DVD-ROM enabled disc, which features the filmís original theatrical web site, plus an interactive game entitled "A Martial Arts Experience." A number of trailers are also included in the DVD-ROM section, although these should have been offered amongst the standard video supplements.

While ROMEO MUST DIE isnít a fantastic starring debut for Jet Li in America, his fans will definitely enjoy action sequences. Hopefully, his sophomore outing will feature a stronger script that really takes advantage of his unique talents. Still, ROMEO MUST DIE is worth checking out on DVD for its high quality audio and video presentation.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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