Before Filmmakers decided to give cameras to crew with epilepsy conditions and then flash bright lights at them, fighting choreography in a film was one well rehearsed dance of spin kicks, wires, and a touch of CGI later in the 1990s. And of course, China ruled that scene. That led to big name stars such as Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung making their presence and fists felt in the west. They each had their breakout film with which to do so.
And for Jet Li, most folks would says that that film was a turn as an ass-kicker extraordinaire in the final Lethal Weapon film. But in reality, it was a kung fu version of Romeo and Juliet.
An avenging cop seeks out his brother’s killer and falls for the daughter of a businessman who is involved in a money-deal with his father.
Now if there’s one thing that you should not do when watching this particular movie for the first time, that’s to take it seriously. I mean c’mon on. Jet Li as an almost invincible former gangster that took the fall for his family and kung-fu punches his way out of prison so that he can seek vengeance on the people who murdered his brother in an convuloted plot to obtain waterfront property while maintaing a low profile and “wheeze gasp pant”.
Story-wise, the film actually ain’t that bad. Mixing Shakespeare with gangsters and violence actually plays off quite smoothly here, despite the fact that the American gangsters have more stereotypes than the cast of Leprechaun 4: Back to tha hood.
Hell, it’s a movie where the usually joke-heavy Anthony Anderson is a somewhat decent threat. Between the parts where he gets a split lip and has his butt handed to him for playing Playstation games too loud. Still, 90 minutes of physical abuse is enough to transform any man into a pissed off wrecking machine near the end of a film.
And as usual, Jet Li just dominates with his particular brand of foot to face technique. Slick camera work, a touch of imagination and the most painful instance of touch rugby ever combines for some great action. Even if Aaliyah needed more wires than the stunt crew propping up Fat Bastard in the third Austin Powers film.
Romeo Must Die isn’t a demanding film, but it is a fun one when you get past the usual genre tropes and gags of that era in action cinema. But it was a film with a surprising touch of emotion as well. Just watch that scene at the end, where Li and his on-screen dad Henry O. That’s a pretty heavy scene for a movie that has been all about violence so far.
It was a damn good solo start for Li, and it proved that his style of kinetic cinema could work in just about any medium.
Last Updated: May 29, 2013