Romeo Must Die is a 2000 American action film directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak in his directorial debut and features fight choreography by Corey Yuen. The film stars Jet Li, Aaliyah (in her film debut), Isaiah Washington, Russell Wong, DMX and Delroy Lindo. The film marks Aaliyah's only film that was released during her lifetime before she was killed in a plane crash a year later. The plot is loosely related to William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, transplanted to contemporary Oakland with Black-American and Chinese-American gangs representing the feuding families.

Romeo Must Die
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAndrzej Bartkowiak
Screenplay by
Story byMitchell Kapner
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyGlen MacPherson
Edited byDerek G. Brechin
Music by
Production
company
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • March 24, 2000 (2000-03-24)[1][2]
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$25 million[3]
Box office$91 million[3]

Frustrated by the lack of originality in Hollywood action films, producer Joel Silver built the film around Hong Kong action films. He cast established Hong Kong actor Jet Li following his role in Lethal Weapon 4. R&B singer Aaliyah was cast and sung the soundtrack's lead single "Try Again" which topped the US Billboard Hot 100.

Romeo Must Die was released by Warner Bros. Pictures in the United States on March 24, 2000, where it received mixed reviews from critics, but was a box office success, grossing $91 million against a production budget of $25 million. The film was considered Li and Aaliyah's breakthrough in Hollywood.[4][5]

Plot edit

Po Sing is the youngest son of Chinese Triad boss Ch'u Sing, who is accosted by African-Americans in a nightclub owned by Silk in Oakland, California. Po is rescued and admonished by Kai, Ch'u's chief lieutenant. Po leaves the club, but is found murdered the next day by a kid on a bicycle. Han Sing is Po's brother and a former cop who has been imprisoned in Hong Kong. Han learns of his brother's death and escapes to Oakland to investigate, where Ch'u is engaged in a joint business venture with Isaak O'Day, a black real estate developer and gang leader. The two have been acquiring deeds to properties along the waterfront to sell to Vincent Roth, a business magnate who plans to buy a new NFL franchise and build a stadium.

Despite assurances from Ch'u that their partnership remains intact, Isaak fears retribution following Po's death and has his chief lieutenant Mac place security details on his son Colin and his daughter Trish, who refuses to be involved in her father's illegal enterprises. In a chance encounter, Han befriends Trish by helping her ditch her assigned security Maurice and then discovers Po called Trish's clothing store the day before he was killed. At his brother's funeral, Han confronts his estranged father and blames him for failing to protect Po after Han helped them both flee to America to escape Chinese authorities, which resulted in Han's imprisonment. Kai informs Han that Po's death has been the result of the escalating gang war between the Chinese and African-Americans.

Meanwhile, Colin tells his father that he was supposed to have met Po at the club on the night of his murder to discuss information that could end the war. That night, Colin and his girlfriend are murdered by an unseen assailant. Trish and Han team up and realize that Po wanted to show Colin a list of businesses that were either destroyed or being threatened for failing to sell their properties. The two visit one of the remaining businesses on Po's list, but the Chinese owner and his employees have been killed. After killing the Chinese hitmen responsible, Han questions his father, who deflects suspicion by suggesting Isaak may have used outside contractors. Later, Ch'u is shown ordering the death of several other Triad bosses to acquire their territories. Trish and Han visit the last holdout on Po's list: Silk's nightclub where Po was last seen.

Han and Trish meet with Silk, but Mac kills him for his deed and abducts Trish and Han. At a remote location, Han defeats Mac's henchmen led by Maurice and goes to rescue Trish. Isaak and Ch'u meet with Roth to sell him the deeds for the properties they now control. After Ch'u takes a multimillion-dollar payment and departs, Isaak refuses his payment, stating that "his compensation" will be in the form of an ownership share of the new franchise. An enraged Mac threatens Isaak to take the deal using Trish as a hostage. He also reveals that the "gang war" was a ruse he and Ch'u concocted to cover their murder and intimidation of businessmen who refused to sign away their properties and admits to killing Colin. In the ensuing shootout, Isaak is wounded while Roth escapes via helicopter.

However, Mac shoots Roth's briefcase out of his hand and the deeds scatter into the wind. Han arrives and confronts Mac about Po who reveals that it was the Chinese who killed him, and is about to shoot Han when Trish kills Mac first. Trish waits with her father for an ambulance while Han leaves to find Ch'u. At the Sing compound, Kai admits he personally killed Po for interfering with Ch'u's dealings with Roth. Han engages Kai in a fist fight, and eventually kills him. Han berates his father for killing Po out of greed and declares that he will leave him to be punished by either the police or the other Triad families. As Han walks away, Ch'u picks up his gun and shoots himself. Han finds Trish waiting for him outside and the two walk away together as the police arrive.

Cast edit

Production edit

During the late 1990s, the producer Joel Silver became annoyed that he did not see anything fresh or original in American action films. For inspiration, he turned to Hong Kong action cinema, where Jet Li was an established movie star. In addition to the influence of Hong Kong martial arts films, the production team also introduced a new visual effect technique: the presentation of martial arts fighting in X-ray vision. They initially experimented with it for a single fight scene with Jet Li and tested it in front of an American audience, which gave an overwhelmingly positive response, before using it in more action scenes throughout the film.[6]

The film's setting is Oakland, California, but other than a few establishing shots, film production was entirely in Vancouver, British Columbia. Principal photography began on May 3, 1999 and ended on July 23, 1999.[7][8] Filming locations included Gastown, Grandview–Woodland, Vanier Park, Chinatown, Versatile Pacific Shipyards, and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.

According to the documentary The Slanted Screen, Han and Trish were supposed to have a kissing scene, which explains the title of Romeo, but this did not test well with an urban audience.[9] Jet Li stated on his personal website that they had filmed both versions of the scene (with kiss and without), and decided to use the latter because it would be "somewhat strange and awkward" for Han to have witnessed his father's suicide and then to come out and kiss someone.[10]

Release edit

Romeo Must Die debuted at #2 at the U.S. box office behind Erin Brockovich, which had come out a week earlier.[11][12][13] The film was produced with a budget of US$25 million. In North America, Romeo Must Die earned $18,014,503 (2,641 theaters, $6,821 per screen average) in its opening weekend. Romeo Must Die's total North American gross is $55,973,336. The film's worldwide box office gross is $91,036,760.[3]

It was released in the United States on DVD on August 1, 2000,[14] and on Blu-ray on August 14, 2012.[15]

Critical reception edit

The film has a 32% approval rating from 94 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator; the critical consensus reads: "In his second Hollywood movie, Jet Li impresses. Unfortunately, when he's not on screen, the movie slows to a crawl. Though there's some spark between Jet and Aaliyah, there isn't any threat of a fire. And as impressive as the action sequences are, some critics feel they are over-edited."[16]

Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times called the movie "dreary" but said it was bound to be a hit due to its combination of martial arts action and hip hop.[17] Writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, Bob Graham likened it to The Matrix, describing it as a "cross-cultural kung fu extravaganza" that shines during Li's stunts.[18] In his review for the Chicago Tribune, Rene Rodriguez said the film is "needlessly convoluted" and should not have added special effects on top of Li's stunts, which he said makes them seem less impressive because of the artificiality.[19] Roger Ebert rated the film 1.5/4 stars and also criticized the use of computer-generated special effects in a martial arts film, saying that it "misses the point" of having audiences be impressed by realistic stunts.[20] Aaliyah received praise for her role.[21]

Soundtrack edit

Romeo Must Die: The Album
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedMarch 28, 2000 (2000-03-28)
RecordedMay 1999 – January 2000
Genre
Length74:40
Label
Singles from Romeo Must Die
  1. "Try Again"
    Released: March 21, 2000
  2. "Come Back in One Piece"
    Released: June 6, 2000
Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
Allmusic     [22]
Robert ChristgauA−[23]
Entertainment WeeklyA−[24]
Mixmag     [25]
Q     [26]

The film's soundtrack, Romeo Must Die: The Album, is a hip hop and R&B soundtrack released by Blackground Records and Virgin Records America in association with Warner Bros. Records (who helped co-financed the soundtrack) on March 28, 2000. It debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 selling 203,000 in its first week.[27] The soundtrack sold 1.3 million copies by the end of 2000[28] and 1.5 million copies in the US as of 2001.[29]

Produced by Aaliyah, Timbaland, Barry Hankerson, and Jomo Hankerson, it was recorded between May 1999 and January 2000. It includes four songs by Aaliyah, as well as works by Chante Moore, Destiny's Child, Ginuwine, Joe, Timbaland & Magoo and more. Three singles & videos were released from the album: Aaliyah's number one pop hit "Try Again" (directed by Wayne Isham), Aaliyah and DMX duet "Come Back in One Piece" (directed by Little X), and Timbaland & Magoo's "We At It Again" (directed by Chris Robinson), which introduced Timbaland's younger brother, rapper Sebastian, to audiences. Q magazine included the soundtrack album in their list of the "5 Best Compilations of 2000".[30]

2021 re-release edit

In August 2021, it was reported that Aaliyah's recorded work for Blackground (since rebranded as Blackground Records 2.0) would be re-released on physical, digital, and, for the first time ever, streaming services in a deal between the label and Empire Distribution.[31] Romeo Must Die: The Album was re-released September 3, 2021.[32]

Track listing edit

Romeo Must Die: The Album
No.TitleWriter(s)Original artistLength
1."Try Again"S. Garrett; Timothy MosleyAaliyah4:45
2."Come Back in One Piece"B. Worrell; E. Simmons; George Clinton; Irv Gotti; R. Meys; S. Garrett; W.O. CollinsAaliyah featuring DMX4:19
3."Rose in a Concrete World (J Dub Remix)"J. Thomas; J.P. ThompsonJoe4:50
4."Rollin' Raw"B. Thomas; G. DorseyB.G. From Hot Boys4:00
5."We At It Again"G. Mosley; M. Barcliff; S. Garrett; Timothy MosleyTimbaland & Magoo featuring Static Major & Sebastian4:45
6."Are You Feelin' Me?"M. Elliott; Timothy MosleyAaliyah3:11
7."Perfect Man"Beyoncé; Eric Seats; Rapture StewartDestiny's Child3:47
8."Simply Irresistible"B. Kidd; S. Garrett; Timothy MosleyGinuwine4:01
9."It Really Don't Matter"E. Ruiz; F. Ferraro; J. Walker; J.E. Figueroa; L.M. Vizzo; Scalere, R. Jr.Confidential4:08
10."Thugz"A. Banks; D'Mon Dedrick Rolison; K. Garman; T. AndersonMack 10 featuring The Comrades4:13
11."I Don't Wanna"D. Scantz; J. Austin; Jazze Pha; Kevin HicksAaliyah4:16
12."Somebody's Gonna Die Tonight"C. Loving; D. Bing; Irv Gotti; Robin MaysDave Bing featuring Lil' Mo4:36
13."Woozy"B. Bush; J. Peacock; M. Brown; S. GarrettPlaya4:10
14."Pump the Brakes"B. Bush; E. Seats; R. StewartDave Hollister4:27
15."This Is a Test"Chanté Moore; Eric Seats; Rapture Stewart; Stephen GarrettChante Moore3:20
16."Revival"J. Walker; K. Dang; M. CalaguasNon-A-Miss4:57
17."Come On"A. Moody; S. HolderBlade3:50
18."Swung On"McKinley, Myron "Elfilin"; Stanley ClarkeStanley Clarke featuring Politix3:16
Total length:74:40

Weekly charts edit

Chart (2000) Peak
position
Australian Albums (ARIA)[33] 15
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[34] 18
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[35] 15
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[36] 14
Canadian Albums (Nielsen SoundScan)[37] 5
Canadian R&B Albums (Nielsen SoundScan)[38] 7
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[39] 4
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[40] 59
European Top 100 Albums (Music & Media)[41] 22
French Albums (SNEP)[42] 60
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[43] 6
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[44] 17
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[45] 18
UK Compilation Albums (OCC)[46] 25
UK R&B Albums (OCC)[47] 14
US Billboard 200[48] 3
US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard)[49] 1
Chart (2002) Peak
position
UK Soundtrack Albums (OCC)[50] 13

Certifications edit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[51] Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[52] Silver 60,000^
United States (RIAA)[53] Platinum 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Basham, David (February 18, 2000). "Aaliyah, DMX, Ginuwine Pitch In for "Romeo" LP". MTV News. Archived from the original on May 14, 2022. Retrieved May 14, 2022.
  2. ^ Mitchell, Gail (March 4, 2000). "The Rhythm and the Blues". Billboard. p. 43. Archived from the original on July 14, 2023. Retrieved May 14, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c "Romeo Must Die". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on March 29, 2015. Retrieved May 14, 2015.
  4. ^ Noxon, Christopher (July 4, 2001). "Taking a Fast-Track Career in Stride". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on January 1, 2011. Retrieved September 10, 2010.
  5. ^ Loayza, Beatrice (August 27, 2021). "The Imperfect Legacy of Romeo Must Die". Vulture. Vox Media. Archived from the original on October 11, 2021. Retrieved October 11, 2021.
  6. ^ Yu, Sabrina Q. (2012). Jet Li: Chinese Masculinity and Transnational Film Stardom. Edinburgh University Press. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-7486-8955-2. Archived from the original on July 14, 2023. Retrieved December 25, 2019.
  7. ^ "Home | Pressroom". Archived from the original on June 23, 2020. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  8. ^ "Romeo Must die (2000) - IMDb". IMDb. Archived from the original on September 9, 2019. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  9. ^ Jose Antonio Vargas (May 25, 2007). "'Slanted Screen' Rues The Absence Of Asians". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on September 25, 2018. Retrieved October 29, 2017.
  10. ^ Li, Jet. "Jet's Message 7". Archived from the original on August 8, 2004. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
  11. ^ "Martial arts moves get a hip-hop flair". Christian Science Monitor. Archived from the original on October 21, 2016. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  12. ^ Welkos, Robert W. (March 28, 2000). "Weekend Box Office; 'Erin Brockovich' Holds Off 'Romeo'". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on June 18, 2023. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  13. ^ Natale, Richard (April 3, 2000). "A 'Beauty' of a Weekend for Oscar Winner; Box office * Best picture award pays off; 'Brockovich' hangs on to the No. 1 spot. 'Skulls,' 'Fidelity' debut well". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on July 1, 2012. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  14. ^ Beierle, Aaron (July 21, 2000). "Romeo Must Die". DVD Talk. Archived from the original on May 18, 2015. Retrieved May 14, 2015.
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  17. ^ Mitchell, Elvis (March 22, 2000). "FILM REVIEW; Hip-Hop Joins Martial Arts but Lets Plot Muscle In". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved September 15, 2010.
  18. ^ Graham, Bob (September 11, 2010). "Romeo Must Die' Flies On the Strength of Jet Li". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on February 10, 2011. Retrieved September 10, 2010.
  19. ^ Rene Rodriguez (March 23, 2000). "Convoluted Subplots Kill Off 'Romeo Must Die'". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on September 16, 2011. Retrieved September 10, 2010.
  20. ^ "Romeo Must Die". Chicago Sun Times. March 22, 2000. Archived from the original on March 1, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2010.
  21. ^ "Aaliyah: A 'beautiful person's' life cut short". CNN. August 27, 2001. Archived from the original on October 18, 2014. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
  22. ^ Mathis, Dennis. "Romeo Must Die - Original Soundtrack : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Archived from the original on December 18, 2012. Retrieved December 25, 2012.
  23. ^ Christgau, Robert (May 30, 2000). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York. Archived from the original on September 4, 2012. Retrieved December 25, 2012.
  24. ^ Seymour, Craig (March 31, 2000). "Romeo Must Die Review". Entertainment Weekly. New York. Retrieved December 25, 2012.
  25. ^ "Review: Romeo Must Die". Mixmag. London: 177. October 2000. Archived from the original on December 25, 2012. Retrieved December 25, 2012.
  26. ^ "Review: Romeo Must Die". Q. London: 119. November 2000. Archived from the original on December 25, 2012. Retrieved December 25, 2012.
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  28. ^ Basham, David (December 29, 2000). "Best Selling Records of 2000". Billboard. Billboard. Retrieved December 8, 2012.
  29. ^ Basham, David (December 29, 2000). "Blackground Readying Aaliyah's Return". Billboard. Billboard. Retrieved December 8, 2012.
  30. ^ "5 Best Compilations of 2000". Q. London: 95. January 2001. Archived from the original on December 25, 2012. Retrieved December 25, 2012.
  31. ^ McIntyre, Hugh (August 5, 2021). "20 Years After Her Passing, Aaliyah's Music Is Finally Coming To Streaming Services". Forbes. Archived from the original on August 23, 2023. Retrieved August 23, 2023.
  32. ^ Darville, Jordan (August 19, 2021). "Streaming release dates for Aaliyah's catalogue revealed, with One in a Million available tonight". The Fader. Archived from the original on August 7, 2023. Retrieved September 5, 2023.
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  39. ^ "Top Albums/CDs peak". Library and Archives Canada. Archived from the original on December 7, 2017. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
  40. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – SOUNDTRACK – ROMEO MUST DIE" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  41. ^ "European Top 100 Albums" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 17, no. 30. July 22, 2000. p. 10. Retrieved January 26, 2023 – via World Radio History.
  42. ^ "Lescharts.com – SOUNDTRACK – ROMEO MUST DIE". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  43. ^ "Longplay-Chartverfolgung at Musicline" (in German). Musicline.de. Phononet GmbH. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  44. ^ "Charts.nz – SOUNDTRACK – ROMEO MUST DIE". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  45. ^ "Swisscharts.com – SOUNDTRACK – ROMEO MUST DIE". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
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  49. ^ "SOUNDTRACK Chart History (Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  50. ^ "Official Soundtrack Albums Chart Top 50". Official Charts Company. Retrieved January 26, 2023.
  51. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Various Artists – Romeo Must Die - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack". Music Canada.
  52. ^ "British album certifications – Original Soundtrack – Romeo Must Die - The Album". British Phonographic Industry.Select albums in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Romeo Must Die - The Album in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  53. ^ "American album certifications – SOUNDTRACK – ROMEO MUST DIE". Recording Industry Association of America.

External links edit