The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0565  Friday, 24 March 2000.

From:           Jimmy Jung  <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 23 Mar 2000 00:38:28 -0500
Subject:        Romeo Must Die

First a warning: there is little reason for the Shakespeare inclined to
see "Romeo must Die."  "Ten things I hate about you," followed the
Shakespearean plot much more closely than this intriguing, but certainly
not Elizabethan film.  Aside from the reference in the title and the
idea of a boy and a girl from two rival camps, there is nothing of the
star-crossed tale we're all familiar with.  In fact, the male lead isn't
even named Romeo, so I assume that was just a promotional gimmick, which
worked, I guess, cause there I was, in the dark with my popcorn.

Anyway, I have complained before in this forum about how whiny and
annoying Romeo is, so I can actually say I was pleased when we meet this
"Romeo" staging a daring escape from a Hong Kong jail instead of moping
about ole' Rosalind.  But instead of a young innocent, this "Romeo" has
staged his escape to travel to California and avenge the death of his
brother, the heir to a Chinese crime empire.  In one of those Hollywood
coincidences, he meets the daughter of his father's rival, while
stealing a cab.  (Can't tell you how often that happens to me.) "Juliet"
is the willful daughter of the head of a black crime empire.
The two crime gangs are fighting for control of the Oakland waterfront.
There are many references to the war between the two gangs and they all
relate to a complex sub plot to bring football back to the city, but in
all honesty, it all makes less sense than an ancient grudge bred of an
airy word. "Romeo" and "Juliet" eventually fall in together, when her
brother is killed, and the murders of their respective brothers seem to
be related.  This is a point that never actually gets resolved, but the
story revolves more around this whodunit, than any romance between the
two.  In fact, there hardly seems to be any romance, heat, even
attraction between the two, but she really digs his super cool kung fu
moves.  (So did I actually.)  The story also seems more involved with
the idea of children growing up and father's letting go.  At different
times, the "Romeo," "Juliet", "Tybalt," and "County Paris" characters
all struggle with the idea of moving out of the shadow of fathers and
father figures.  My wife and I had fun trying to match these characters
with their counterparts in the play, and the character I have labeled
the "County Paris" is in fact a lieutenant man in the employ of
"Juliet's" father.  In this story, he is putting the moves on Juliet,
but seemingly without her father's blessing or knowledge.  Delroy Lindo,
as "Juliet's" father, once again plays the dad who is both evil and
caring, and it makes more sense in this film, than it does in "Cider
House Rules."  "Romeo's" father, sadly, is played as a comic book

In any event, not being terribly informed about martial arts movies, I
can't really tell where this ranks on that scale for quality. Clearly,
the fight scenes are taking cues from "The Matrix", but where the
impossible physical acts of that movie made sense with in the sci-fi
context, here those types of touches are a distraction.  Jet Li is
amazing on his own.  To see him do, what none of us could dream of is
enough.  To see him augmented so that he defies the laws of physics is
just annoying. One thing I will say is that it seems to me that martial
arts makes a smoother transition from Shakespearean sword play, than
they somewhat awkward update to guns used in the Baz Luhrmann version of
Romeo and Juliet.  (Have there been other shakespeare/martial arts
productions?)  But I am sad to report that the somewhat dated "West Side
Story" may still remain the standard touchstone for modernizing this


Oh yeah, it is a Hollywood movie, so you know the endings gonna get
tweaked, but at least they give you a little self destruction.

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