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Romeo Must Die Reviews

Two families divided by a bitter feud, young lovers caught in a web of hatred... yes, that really is "Romeo" as in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the Capulets and Montagues updated to warring gangs. This lazy, formulaic action picture — which seems designed primarily to exploit the reputation of Hong Kong martial arts star Jet Li, who beat the bejesus out of Mel Gibson in LETHAL WEAPON 4 — doesn't do a thing with the classic conflict you haven't seen before, especially if you've seen Abel Ferrara's sleekly brutal CHINA GIRL. Han Sing (Li) is the movie's Romeo, a former Hong Kong cop who went to prison to protect his gangster father (Henry O) and brother Po (Jon Kit Lee). Now San Francisco-based, the Sings, abetted by ambitious, U.S.-born sharpie Kai (Russell Wong), rule half the waterfront. The other half is controlled by Isaak O'Day (Delroy Lindo) and his cohorts, including restless sidekick Mac (Isaiah Washington) and son Colin (D.B. Woodside). Po is murdered, escalating tensions between the families; Han breaks out of jail with vengeance on his mind, but gets sidetracked by the picture's Juliet, lovely Trish O'Day (Aaliyah). All this could be perfectly entertaining... but it's botched at every turn. If you didn't know Li was a world-class WuShu champion, you'd never guess it — all his action scenes are edited within an inch of their lives, a blur of flying feet and hands. Rapid-fire editing is a good way to juice up lackluster action scenes, but a bad way to showcase good ones. Then there's the utter lack of sexual chemistry between Li and Aaliyah, sucking all the urgency out of the relationship between the star-crossed lovers. And the sight of Li forced to adopt hip-hop attitudes is just embarrassing. Let's hope his next U.S. film is more worthy of his talents.