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  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
    English, French, German, Italian, Italian - Hearing Impaired
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Animated menus
  • 3 Music video
  • Awards/Nominations
  • Documentaries
  • Web access
  • Interactive game

Romeo Must Die

Warner Bros./Warner Bros. . R4 . COLOR . 111 mins . M15+ . PAL


Romeo Must Die is a Jet Li vehicle and it tends not to stray too far from expectations. It's a big budget action film with the appropriate violence - physical and gun - and it has an urban setting to appeal to the young audience (who will hopefully buy the soundtrack CD). It's also the movie debut of talented singer Aaliyah and as it turns out, it will be her only film.

The title is an allusion to the Shakespeare play and it plays fast and loose with its influences. It's the story of two young members of opposing crime families. Jet Li is Han Sing, the son of the head of the Sing syndicate. Aaliyah is Trish, the daughter of Issak O'Day (Derek Lindo in a well cast role), who is the head of the O'Day family. Both are estranged from their families - Han rotting in a Hong Kong jail, Trish upset over the involvement of her brother in her father's business. She lives detached from her father having prospered with her own legitimate business (she drives an AMG Mercedes after all).

Both syndicates fight for control over the limited waterfront real estate and there exists an uneasy truce. Both are in negotiation with a developer who wishes to build a football stadium on the waterfront. He enlists the help of both families to evict the tenants on the land. Familiar?

Both families lose loved ones, both want to become legitimate enterprises and both have treacherous elements in their own ranks. Han and Trish become friends due to similar personal tragedies and this being a Jet Li film, there are numerous fight scenes, all of them quite inventive even to an audience who has seen it all. There's a strange fusion of wirework and CGI, especially in the killing moves which are done x-ray style which I've never seen before. Bones are crushed and organs are skewered all in lovely CGI 3D. There are a number of plot twists (especially right at the end) so I'll say no more.

This is a surprising and derivative film at the same time, however it has its strengths. It is very funny at times and even Jet Li is asked to perform in ways we're not used to seeing. The two leads are the assets in what is a formulaic film and that is surprising given the relative inexperience of both. Li has some comedic talent and is surprisingly charismatic, right up there with Chow Yun Fat if not Jackie Chan. Like Jackie Chan, he has an expressive face. Aaliyah is also sympathetic in her role. If you're expecting fireworks between the two leads, forget it. I did say the script plays loose with the Shakespeare theme.

The others are very good given the low screen time. Rapper DMX (major role in Exit Wounds) plays a bit part. It deserves a rental at least.


Video is anamorphic 2.35:1 and of excellent quality. If you've seen other titles from this company, you know what to expect. A very flaw-free transfer with top marks in almost every category. Colour saturation is excellent with only a few flaws. Colours have the visual 'pop' of a modern, high intensity transfer. Clothing, cars and open grass scenes have that visually pleasing primary brightness. You can assume everything else is excellent, black levels, skin tones etc.

There are a number of minor flaws. Slight grain in backgrounds, skies, landscapes etc. I noticed some slight aliasing on parallel patterns, however on progressive units you'll see none! Is it disc or player? Hmmm...

One consistent flaw is maybe disc or director's intent. Open daylight scenes often seem washed out, or like the white balance is off. The familar deep yellow of the Caprice 'Yellow Cabs' is a washed out canary yellow and there are no panel lines to be seen. This is even seen in open windows where the interior is nicely saturated, however anything outside the window is overly bright and this is especially annoying as the white tends to bleed at the borders. However everything else is perfect.

Again because this is so prevalent, it might be a deliberate effect.


There are two tracks, English and Italian Dolby 5.1 at 384k/s. This is a modern soundtrack so you expect the absolute best and that's what you get. Excellent split surrounds, exceptional steering and extremely low bass. There is too much of a good thing however. The action scenes tended to be enhanced with heavy bass and directional movement; that is punches land heavily with the LFE and the swings are accuentuated in your surrounds. There's also sudden dynamic swings; that is voices will be at conversational level and then there's a huge explosion or a 747 landing in your loungeroom. I think this film is designed for huge cinema multiplexes where such effects are best shown and the DVD hasn't been altered for the home environment. That 747 landing is perhaps a good example; a gratuitous scene (perhaps paid advertisement?), however the directional and extremely low level bass are impressive nonetheless. Surrounds are a bit artificial in that regard, environmental effects are not used and when surrounds come into play, they are rather heavy handed.

Music is perhaps best described as hip-hop with an Asian fusion. There are a number of Aaliyah and DMX mixes interspersed and there is excellent musicality and of course, bass response.

There is one glaring problem and it's a bit ironic given my review history. I have complained about dialogue normalisation in the past - that is vocals being boosted higher than the -27dB level recommended by the Dolby AT52 encoding manual in an effort to make the vocals clear in lesser systems. This title however goes in the other direction - vocals are clear but low level - you'll have the film set at a comfortable conversational level and the effects and bass will roar at you. My 'midnite mode' switch didn't do much either. It's a minor point, however I expect that people using TV speakers or lesser powered systems might find their setup stretched. I was just 'blown away' by the overly forceful mix. The audio in the extras (eg. music videos) is good to very good and Dolby Stereo at 192k/s.


Abundant and of reasonably good value. There are two trailers and two music videos and it's an especially good inclusion given Aaliyah's sad fate (she died in a plane accident for those who don't keep up). There are numerous 'behind the scenes' type excerpts into the special effects and movie making process. The longest is an HBO 15 minute 'making of'. Others include examinations of characters, sound, effects and stunts. Most run a few minutes and are of varying value. Let's just say that producer Joel Silver (of The Matrix fame) is a constant influence on almost every production aspect. This is one of those 'producer is top guy' films like the Bruckheimer stable. The director could be anyone... in fact, I've forgotten already.

There is also PC content, however even though I use a PC as a progressive device, I rarely delve into these things because they invariably use that little bastard of a package called ironically 'PC Friendly', which is unstable and requires large downloads and patches to work. Leave it alone. PC Friendly is not your friend.


This disc is close to perfect. There is nothing more I can ask (except for the dialogue normalisation thing). The movie is better than I expected. This is a re-release, the original version is an NTSC copy of the region 1 disc so now Warners has done the right thing and produced a native PAL version. From what I've seen, this new version is fundamentally the same as the R1 and original R4 release.

The movie itself is so-so. It's better than I thought and I feel that the two leads are the best parts of the movie. As a demonstration disc, it's excellent. Safe buy.

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      And I quote...
    "An excellent quality re-release now in new-fangled PAL..."
    - Tony Lai
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Rom:
          Pioneer 105(s)
    • MPEG Card:
          Geforce2 32MB AGP
    • Decoder:
          Sony TA-E9000ES
    • Amplifier:
          Parasound HCA-1206THX
    • Speakers:
          Mission 763
    • Centre Speaker:
          Mission 75c
    • Surrounds:
          Mission 760
    • Subwoofer:
          Mission 75as
    • Audio Cables:
          rca coaxial SPDIF
    • Video Cables:
          VGA connector
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