Romeo Must Die (NTSC) (2000) (NTSC)

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer-2
Music Video-Come Back In One Piece-Aaliyah featuring DMX
Music Video-Try Again-Aaliyah
Featurette-Making Aaliyah's Try Again Video
Featurette-Stairway Dance
Featurette-Kung Fu Football
Featurette-A Benz, A Bike, A Babe and Some Bad-Ass Kung Fu
Featurette-The Hose
Featurette-Master On Fire
Featurette-Jet Li is 'Han'
Featurette-Aaliyah is 'Trish'
Featurette-Anthony Anderson is 'Maurice' aka 'Moron'
Featurette-Inside the Visual Effects Process
Featurette-Diary of a (Legal) Mad Bomber
Featurette-Anatomy Of A Stunt
Featurette-The Sound Stage
Featurette-HBO First-Look Special: Making Romeo Must Die
DVD-ROM Extras
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 114:55
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 3,4 Directed By Andrzej Bartkowiak
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Jet Li
Aaliyah
Isaiah Washington
Russell Wong
DMX
Delroy Lindo
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $36.95 Music Stanley Clarke


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Mandarin
Cantonese
Thai
Korean
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    You can guess from the title of this movie that there is at least going to be some reference to the Bard, and here it is: there are two families (one African-American, one Chinese), there is some tension between them, and each has a child who likes to flirt with the other. That's where the Shakespeare ends, and pretty much the extent of the story, with the exception of the fact that each has a son that has died in mysterious circumstances, and the families may or may not be partners in a land deal at the Oakland waterfront which they dominate.

    Jet Li plays former cop Han, who breaks out of a Hong Kong prison upon hearing of the death of his brother in the US. Upon his arrival, he coincidentally meets Trish (Aaliyah), who happens to be the daughter of his father's enemy (or partner), and thus is potentially valuable in tracking down the killer. Throw in plenty of bad dudes to fight with - I especially liked the guy with the afro, sunglasses and flares in the opening club scene - and you've got yourself a movie.

    Although the majority of the Kung Fu scenes, of which there are seven, were well orchestrated and beautifully executed, the makers couldn't resist attempting to assist digitally. The Matrix, to which this film has been unfairly compared, was all about people that can bend the rules of reality spinning through the air and leaping great heights. Romeo Must Die should have been about Jet Li’s skill - he never needed the effects before to impress, and I don't know what's changed. The directing also left a little to be desired in at least two of these scenes - the actors were doing the tricks, but at times it looked a little chaotic with excessive camera movement. An interesting effect was the occasional use of an "X-Ray" shot to get an obscenely violent view of bones from the inside as they are broken.

    Hip-Hop songstress Aaliyah in her film debut was suitably magnetic as the feisty Trish, and in addition to admiring his obvious martial arts skills, I've always found Jet Li to carry himself with a certain quiet dignity, and thus be eminently watchable. I did, however, feel that the movie lacked a little in the steam department, with the relationship between the two leads not progressing too far past the admiring looks stage, with the exception of a sexy scene where Han uses Trish to fight because he can't hit a woman.

    Despite a terribly-written part in a couple of nothing subplots, Delroy Lindo (The Cider House Rules) acquitted himself well as Isaak O'Day, Trish's father. The real standout in the acting department, though, was Anthony Anderson (Me, Myself & Irene) who was the whipping boy both physically and comically for Li as Trish's bodyguard. "Number 2s" to the respective crime families Isaiah Washington (True Crime) and Russell Wong (Prophecy II) were a little wooden, but on balance, the good performances far outweighed the mediocre.

    Romeo Must Die is the directorial debut of Andrzej Bartkowiak, a noted cinematographer, who has previously worked on such stylish films as The Devil's Advocate and the action-packed Speed. He creates a gorgeous movie with a lovely texture to it. Everything about the look of the film is smooth and refined. But at the end of the day, despite the promise shown by the cast, I was just a little let down by the fight scenes, the almost plotless script and eventually the length of this movie, which needed to be cut by about 20 minutes to generate some excitement and some punch.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. It is presented in NTSC, so your equipment will need to be capable of displaying NTSC in order to view this disc.

    Despite being quite sharp, the transfer was lacking just a little in the detail department, and I suspect that this was due to the inferior NTSC formatting. Without a PAL version for a direct comparison, though, I cannot be sure. This lack of detail was accented upon viewing the DVD on a display not possessing a 16x9 mode, and aliasing was also a little more prevalent in these circumstances, so those without that option, be warned. Shadow detail was excellent for the most part in a very dark movie, but occasionally foreground shadows were lost into the background. There was no low level noise to report.

    The colours were vivid and well represented. This was especially evident in the lighting of the movie, which was often neon blues, pinks and reds. The lush green lawns of the O'Day mansion were indicative of this at around 10:00. Skin tones were excellent, and the blacks were deep and inky.

    Aside from the very occasional and barely noticeable film artefacts, the only defects that I could detect consisted of some instances of aliasing. The most noticeable (although minor) infractions took place on some roof shingles at 10:08, at 21:35 on a TV speaker grille, and finally at 39:30 on a stack of CD jewel cases. There were no MPEG artefacts to speak of. There was an instance of grain in the night sky at 2:18, however, I have no doubt that this was inherent in the source material.

    This is an RSDL disc, and despite searching hard for the layer change, I could not find it.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    I had no choice but to listen to the sole soundtrack on offer in Dolby Digital 5.1, and it was a fantastic example of the sound of a movie really standing out distinctly in its crispness and definition. The team that worked on the film's audio was the one that gathered so much praise from their work on The Matrix and the standard set by that movie was maintained.

    At times, I felt that the dialogue was a little quiet in the mix, especially when some of the heavier bass tones were generated by the score and music generally. This was never sufficient to cause any difficulty in understanding what was being said. I noticed no problems with audio sync and no other obvious problems or defects in what was a flawless soundtrack.

    The Stanley Clarke (Boyz N the Hood) score didn't really stand out amongst the numerous rap and hip hop tracks (from artists such as DMX). Although not being a fan of the genre, I thought that all of the music was quite fitting and enjoyable, and there was a welcome lack of clichéd Chinese themes.

    The surround channels came into their own during the numerous fight and chase scenes in which they were utilized well, but they seemed to go a little too silent in between. The lack of much in the way of atmospheric sounds, despite there being many opportunities for them, meant that I was never truly enveloped by the soundtrack and was occasionally startled when the surrounds did come into play.

    The subwoofer really got a workout: from explosions to the pulsing bass of the musical soundtrack, it was almost constantly thumping, but in a manner supportive of the action rather than drawing attention to itself.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    An excellent selection of extras is provided, along with a bonus for DVD-ROM drive owners.

Menu

      The menu is not 16x9 enhanced, and features a short animated intro and five separate looping clips with excerpts from the score playing in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround sound.

Cast & Crew

    Contains filmographies for Jet Li, Isaiah Washington, Russell Wong, Delroy Lindo, and Joel Silver, as well as short bios of Aaliyah and DMX, this film being their feature debuts.

Short Documentaries (24:48)

    The first five of these eight vignettes deconstruct various fight scenes from the movie through the use of location footage and some subtitles in the way of narrative. The remaining three pieces are interviews with Jet Li, Aaliyah, and Anthony Anderson. They are all presented at 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks, and I enjoyed them more than the HBO offering below.

Featurettes (17:02)

    These four pieces concentrate on the computer generated visual effects, "real" visual effects (such as explosions), stunts and the sound mix, and are presented in an identical manner to the Short Documentaries above.

Featurette - HBO Firstlook Special: Making Romeo Must Die (14:47)

    This promotional made-for-television piece features the usual interviews with the stars, various crew and producers, as well as some location footage, and features much discussion of The Matrix, being producer Joel Silver's penultimate prior effort. A worthy inclusion, it is presented at 1.33:1, is not 16x9 enhanced, and has Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Theatrical Trailer (2:10)

    Reasonably well presented, the trailer emphasizes the almost non-existent Shakespearean theme. It is not 16x9 enhanced, and is in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround sound.

International Trailer (1:40)

    This trailer is a little more representative of what the film actually is about. It is also not 16x9 enhanced, and is in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround sound.

Music Video - Come Back In One Piece (Aaliyah featuring DMX) (3:44)

    Not quite my style, but I'm sure hip-hop fans will enjoy this one. It is presented in aspect ratios ranging from 1.33:1 to 2.35:1 (and a few points in between) for reasons of style, and is not 16x9 enhanced. With Dolby Digital 2.0 surround sound.

Music Video - Try Again (Aaliyah) (3:54)

    Another treat for Aaliyah fans, this one is in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround sound.

Featurette - Making Aaliyah's "Try Again" Video (4:14)

    Although it features interview excerpts with Jet Li and Aaliyah, this contains mainly production footage from the video shoot, and bits of the clip itself and is also in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround sound

DVD-ROM Features

    Dropping the DVD into the player installs a somewhat unstable little applet called PC Friendly, which with me did not live up to its name, constantly crashing.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 and Region 1 versions are identical, so get it where it's cheapest, unless you can wait for the PAL-formatted version.

Summary

    Good video quality, an excellent, aggressive 5.1 mix and a truckload of extras will put your system through its paces and keep Jet Li fans entertained for hours. For me, though, the plot was a little too thin, but the charisma of the leads kept me hanging in there until the reasonably entertaining action scenes came booming through my lounge room. Those without NTSC-capable or 16x9-capable displays should beware.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Anthony Curulli (read my bio)
Thursday, October 19, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-D608
SpeakersFront: Yamaha NS10M, Rear: Wharfedale Diamond 7.1, Center: Wharfedale Sapphire, Sub: Aaron 120W

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