Romeo Must Die
***.5 BM
Starring: Jet Li, Aaliyah, Delroy Lindo, Russell Wong, Isaiah Washington, D.B. Woodside

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I think I've got it figured out now - if Jet Li would have had the part of Neo in "The Matrix," my problems would have been solved, and it would have been a better movie. He'd have minimal dialogue, but he'd be capable of facial expressions, and therefore better than Keanu.

Until they pull that off, I'll have to settle for some fun stuff like "Romeo Must Die." Jet plays Han, who comes to Oakland to kick all sorts of ass when he finds out his asshole brother Po has been killed. He winds up in the middle of a war between rival organizations run by his father, Chu, and Isaak O'Day (Delroy Lindo) - Chinese vs. Black. His father's right-hand man, Kai (Russell Wong) can kick a lot of ass, too... and Isaak's man Mac (Isaiah Washington) ain't no slouch himself. Isaak didn't kill the asshole brother, but fears Chu will try to kill his son Colin (D.B. Woodside) or his daughter Trish (Aaliyah) out of vengeance anyway. Then a lot of ass gets kicked.

The film is helped out by a lot of engaging performances - Delroy Lindo is always great. Washington shows a range between his smooth criminal Mac and the innocent family man Frank Beachum in "True Crime" that makes me think he's going to be around a while. Wong is pretty smooth, too, and Anthony Anderson's Maurice consistently manages to provide some yuks - I haven't heard the phrase "shiftless Negroes" in a long time. Aaliyah's performance is surprisingly good, too - very natural, very low-key. Ain't a hard gal to look at, neither.

Sure, it's relatively predictable and a bit iffy in spots, but it was fun. My biggest problem was with the very obvious moments during the fight scenes where Wong and Li were obviously attached to cables that were digitally erased later - it's kinda amusing in a way, but these guys are such naturals at this, I'd think they could kick a lot of ass without having to overexaggerate things like this. Overall, though, it was whatcha might call a hoot.

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