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"Romeo Must Die"

Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak.
Written by Eric Bernt and John Jarrell.
Starring Jet Li, Delroy Lindo, Russell Wong and DMX.
Release Year:  2000 
Review Date:  3/27/00 


While I won't get onto too much of an Oscar soapbox, I must say that "The Matrix" was robbed.  Somehow, it won four Oscars on Sunday night, and it didn't win Best Picture!  Sure, it wasn't nominated...but, c'mon!  Everyone I know--with the exception of Brandon "Moose" Larson, a member of Bellview--loved that movie.  It's all bullshit...I was reminded, by watching the spring break festivities on MTV this weekend (or, as I like to call them:  heaven), that "The Matrix" will probably win Best Picture at the MTV Movie Awards later this summer.  Thank goodness for "music" television...

Anyway, being that this is the last Bellview for about a month, I wanted to go out with a bang.  Logic told me that Jet Li--as you may remember, the star of my-now-favorite martial arts film, "Fist of Legend"--would be that bang.


This movie is a piece of shit.  Which is a shame, considering the fact that there are good things in place for Mr. Li, including an attempt at a decent story, and a great acting debut from Aaliyah, the R&B star that got the nod as Li's love interest in this movie.  The biggest problem with all of this is the shameless promotion of this film that I have had to suffer through for the last two months--it sells it as an action movie!  So, I come to the movie, with some expectation of action movie!!  Chuck "Cameo Cookies: Word Up!" Longer and "Lovely" Laura Wilber were thinking the same thing...and, you know what?  There is almost no action!!

And when there is action, the movie does two seemingly ridiculous things:

1) The movie's world is clearly based in reality, but its fight scenes are not.  This means that, on any given occasion, Li is swooping through the air, kicking six guys at once, *in succession* and without hitting the ground.  Or, his character jumps 15 feet in the air.  No one in the movie seems mystified by this, as if all of the Asian characters should just be able to jump that high.  I accept that as an action movie, I'm going to have to bend the rules a bit...but, this is "The Matrix", without the sci-fi storyline.  These hi-jinks made sense in Li's other American release, "Black Mask" (not made for American audiences, but still released here), but that was more of a fantasy.

2)  Half of the fight scenes don't even involve Jet Li!!  He is the only reason I came to see this movie!  Delroy Lindo?  NO!  Russell Wong?  NO!!  DMX, featured in all of two scenes?  Nope.  So, where the fuck is Li?  I don't think Jet Li is even in a third of this movie, yet he is the star.  I think that Li is extremely engaging, and even when the pathetic story didn't work, I found myself still interested in watching Li work.  It is a shame that the director didn't think the same thing.

It gets worse:  its dueling family storyline is so loaded with cliches, the three of us were trying to guess the time of the film when Jet Li's brother was going to get killed.  (Chuck got it right:  17 minutes after the brother's "don't worry, everything is going to be all right" speech, he gets tossed out of a window.  I am NOT giving anything away by telling you about that scene, trust me!)  And, sometimes during fight scenes, the filmmakers thought that they would be all sly, and show x-ray vision shots of bad guys meeting their demise.  This worked the first time...but, by the third, I was wishing that I had left after the trailers.

But, hey, you could do worse:  I like seeing people getting beat up, and although sparse, there are a couple of cool looking stunts, and it is clear that Li has a future making movies here in America.  The soundtrack is good, and if you go with cool people like me and Chuck, you will find yourself dancing in your seat like we were.  And, Aaliyah is hot as hell...I'm anxious to see what route she takes for her next movie.  Just be sure to see this one during the daytime, preferably when it is raining and you have got nothing else to do.

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09