Romeo Must Die
Cinematographer Andrzej Bartkowiak, the cameraman behind Speed, Lethal Weapon 4, and The Devil’s Advocate, makes his directorial debut with a lively but by-the-numbers film that mixes Hong Kong action pyrotechnics with gritty urban gang drama.
Jet Li stars as a jailed cop named Han who hightails it to Oakland, California, to seek revenge for the gang-related murder of his brother. What he finds, though, is a fierce war between his father’s syndicate and that of Isaak O’Day for control of the city’s precious waterfront land, as both groups are trying to make a deal with a corrupt football-team owner to build a new stadium.
The political shenanigans are basically just a backdrop for the kick-ass action, and to give Li a number of enemies to lock limbs with. It also provides him with a love interest, Trish, who’s O’Day’s daughter and like Han, the only straight arrow in a family of crooked mobsters.
Li and Aaliyah have a teasing, gentle chemistry, and when they’re onscreen together, the movie lights up and glides along smoothly. Li even finds a way to work Aaliyah into one of his action set pieces, using her arms and legs to fight a female adversary because “I can’t hit a girl!”.
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