Romeo Must Die

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Romeo Must Die
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak
Produced by Joel Silver
Jim Van Wyck
Screenplay by Eric Bernt
John Jarrell
Story by Mitchell Kapner
Starring Jet Li
Isaiah Washington
Russell Wong
DB Woodside
Anthony Anderson
Delroy Lindo
Music by Stanley Clarke
Cinematography Glen MacPherson
Edited by Derek G. Brechin
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • March 22, 2000 (2000-03-22)
Running time 115 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $25 million
Box office $91,036,760

Romeo Must Die is a 2000 American action film directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak in his directorial debut, and also fight choreography by Corey Yuen, and starring Jet Li and Aaliyah. The film was released in the United States on March 22, 2000.

It is considered Jet Li's breakout role in the English speaking American film industry.[1]

The film's plot is similar to William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, but instead of the last name, the families feud over race. The movie's setting was Oakland, California, but other than a few establishing shots, the film was entirely shot in Vancouver, British Columbia. This film is the debut of R&B singer Aaliyah as an actress.


Po Sing (John Kit Lee) is waiting for someone unknown in an African American club when Kai (Russell Wong) and his Asian henchmen come in and confront the owner of the club and his bouncers. After a brief fight, all are thrown out by the owner before the meeting can take place. On the next day, Po was found murdered by a kid riding a bike.

Fearing retribution, real estate developer and gang leader Isaak O’Day (Delroy Lindo) arranges for his henchmen to place security on both of his children. Meanwhile, Po’s brother, Han (Jet Li), learns of the murder in the Hong Kong prison where he is serving time. After starting a fight in the mess hall, he escapes from prison by overpowering the guards who took him to an isolation cell for punishment and disguising himself as one of them.

Eventually, Han makes his way to Oakland, where he learns that a gang war seems to have erupted between Black and Asian gang families, including both O’Day and Han and Po’s father, Ch’u Sing (Henry O), even while the two are apparently engaged in a joint business venture. He also learns that his brother called O’Day’s daughter Trish’s (Aaliyah) record store the day before he was killed. After a chance encounter with her, he follows her and learns that Po may have actually been calling Trish’s brother, Colin (DB Woodside).

At his brother’s funeral, Han confronts his estranged father, blaming him for failing to keep his promise to protect Po after Han had helped them both flee to America to escape the Chinese authorities, an action which resulted in his own imprisonment and disgraced status as a former police officer. Han learns that the war is apparently over control of the properties along the Oakland waterfront. Meanwhile, O’Day also reveals to his son that the deal he is working on will get their family out of the crime business for good, but that he must be careful. However, the apparent war over territory is really a cover for the two sides secretly working together to put together a deal for ownership of a new NFL franchise in Oakland.

Colin and his girlfriend are both killed by unseen assailants by being thrown out of his high rise apartment window. As Han comforts Trish, he learns that Po had put together a list of businesses that were either destroyed or being threatened with destruction for failing to sell their properties, and that Po was trying to contact Colin to warn him about this. The two visit one of the few remaining properties on the list and learn that the owner, a Chinese man, and his employees have been killed by a Chinese hit team. When Han confronts his father over this, he tries to deflect suspicion by telling him Trish may have been involved.

It is revealed that both sides in the fake war are using violence and intimidation to force the owners of all the waterfront properties to relinquish their rights over their properties. Trish and Han visit the last property on the list, the nightclub where Po originally intended to meet Colin, O’Day’s chief lieutenant Mac and his goons kill the club’s owner and kidnap both Trish and Han, taking them to separate locations. Han escapes by overpowering his guards.

Ch’u Sing has the other Chinese crime lords killed, ensuring that he will have control over their business interests. O’Day, Ch’u Sing, and the developer arranging the NFL deal meet at the Oakland Men’s club to provide the deeds for the properties they now control. Sing takes a multi-million dollar payment and leaves, but O’Day refuses his payment, stating that his payment will be in the form of a share of ownership of the new franchise. He is betrayed, however, by Mac, who threatens Trish to force O’Day to hand over the deeds to the developer. O'Day, enraged by Mac's betrayal, attacks Mac but is grievously wounded in the process. Han arrives and pursues Mac to the roof of the club. The developer escapes via helicopter, but not before losing all of the deeds after Mac fires repeatedly at the helicopter. Mac reveals to Han that it was Ch’u Sing’s lieutenant Kai who had Po killed, just before Trish kills him.

At his father’s house, Han engages in a brutal fight with Kai, killing him after suffering burn injuries to his hands. He then confronts his father, knowing now that his father had his own son killed "like running over a dog in the street" for no other reason than that he was interfering with a business deal. He tells his father that he will answer for his crimes, either to the American authorities or to the other Chinese families. As Han walks away, his father commits suicide with a handgun. Han finds Trish waiting for him outside and the two walk away from the house together.



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 was met with derision from a pre-screening with an urban audience.[2] 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 one without instead because it would be "somewhat strange and awkward" for Han to have witness his father's suicide and then to come out and kiss someone.[3] The movie was filmed in 1999.


The critical reception was mixed to negative.[4][5][6][7] The film currently has a 33% ("Rotten") rating from 91 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, with the critical consensus "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."

Box office[edit]

Romeo Must Die debuted at No.2 at the U.S. box office behind in 1999's Erin Brockovich.[8][9][10] The film was produced with a budget of US$25 million. In North America, Romeo Must Die was a box office success, earning a strong $18,014,503 (2,641 theaters, $6,821 per screen average) in its opening weekend. Romeo Must Dies total North American gross is $55,973,336. The film's worldwide box office gross is $91,036,760.[11]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[12]
Robert Christgau A–[13]
Entertainment Weekly A–[14]
Mixmag 4/5 stars[15]
Q 4/5 stars[16]

The film's soundtrack, Romeo Must Die: The Album, is a hip-hop and R&B soundtrack released by Blackground Records was released on March 28, 2000. It debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 selling 203,000 in its first week.[17] The soundtrack sold 1.26 million copies by December 2000.[18]

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 (director)), 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".[19]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Try Again" – 4:44 (Aaliyah)
  2. "Come Back in One Piece" – 4:18 (Aaliyah featuring DMX)
  3. "Rose in a Concrete World" (J Dub Remix) – 4:50 (Joe)
  4. "Rollin' Raw" – 3:59 (B.G. From Ca$h Money)
  5. "We At It Again" – 4:45 (Timbaland & Magoo)
  6. "Are You Feelin' Me?" – 3:10 (Aaliyah)
  7. "Perfect Man" – 3:47 (Destiny's Child)
  8. "Simply Irresistible" – 4:00 (Ginuwine)
  9. "It Really Don't Matter" – 4:12 (Confidential)
  10. "Thugz" – 4:12 (Mack 10 featuring The Comrades)
  11. "I Don't Wanna" – 4:16 (Aaliyah)
  12. "Somebody's Gonna Die Tonight" – 4:36 (Dave Bing featuring Lil' Mo)
  13. "Woozy" – 4:10 (Playa)
  14. "Pump the Brakes" – 4:27 (Dave Hollister)
  15. "This Is a Test" – 3:20 (Chante Moore)
  16. "Revival" – 4:57 (Non-A-Miss)
  17. "Come On" – 3:50 (Blade)
  18. "Swung On" – 3:15 (Stanley Clarke featuring Politix)

Home media[edit]

DVD was released in Region 1 in the United States on August 1, 2000 and Region 2 in the United Kingdom on 16 April 2001, it was distributed by Warner Home Video.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Noxon, Christopher (2001-07-04). "Taking a Fast-Track Career in Stride". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-09-10. 
  2. ^ Jose Antonio Vargas (2007-05-25). "'Slanted Screen' Rues The Absence Of Asians". The Washington Post. 
  3. ^ Li, Jet. "Jet's Message 7". Archived from the original on 2004-08-08. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  4. ^ Mitchell, Elvis (2000-03-22). "FILM REVIEW; Hip-Hop Joins Martial Arts but Lets Plot Muscle In". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-09-15. 
  5. ^ Graham, Bob (2010-09-11). "Romeo Must Die' Flies On the Strength of Jet Li". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-09-10. 
  6. ^ Rene Rodriguez (2000-03-23). "Convoluted Subplots Kill Off `Romeo Must Die'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-09-10. 
  7. ^ "Romeo Must Die". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2010-09-10. 
  8. ^ "Martial arts moves get a hip-hop flair". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2010-12-15. 
  9. ^ Welkos, Robert W. (2000-03-28). "Weekend Box Office; 'Erin Brockovich' Holds Off 'Romeo'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-15. 
  10. ^ Natale, Richard (2000-04-03). "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. Retrieved 2010-12-15. 
  11. ^ "Romeo Must Die at Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 2010-09-29. 
  12. ^ Mathis, Dennis. "Romeo Must Die - Original Soundtrack : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved December 25, 2012. 
  13. ^ Christgau, Robert (May 30, 2000). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice (New York). Retrieved December 25, 2012. 
  14. ^ Seymour, Craig (March 31, 2000). "Romeo Must Die Review". Entertainment Weekly (New York). Retrieved December 25, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Review: Romeo Must Die". Mixmag (London): 177. October 2000. Retrieved December 25, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Review: Romeo Must Die". Q (London): 119. November 2000. Retrieved December 25, 2012. 
  17. ^ " - News - 'NSYNC On Top Again As Aaliyah, Drag-On Hit Chart". 2002-06-05. Retrieved 2013-11-09. 
  18. ^ Basham, David (December 29, 2000). "'NSYNC Album A Shoo-In For Biggest-Selling Record Of 2000". MTV News. MTV. Retrieved December 8, 2012. 
  19. ^ "5 Best Compilations of 2000". Q (London): 95. January 2001. Retrieved December 25, 2012. 

External links[edit]