Romeo Must Die is a 2000 film about a gang war that breaks out between an African American gang and an Asian gang in Oakland, CA. The plot is similar to that of Romeo and Juliet and featured famed martial arts star Jet Li and singer Aaliyah in her first movie debut.
Jet Li … Han Sing
Aaliyah … Trish O’Day
Isaiah Washington … Mac
Russell Wong … Kai
Delroy Lindo … Isaak O’Day
D.B. Woodside … Colin (as DB Woodside)
Henry O … Ch’u Sing
Jon Kit Lee … Po Sing
Edoardo Ballerini … Vincent Roth
Anthony Anderson … Maurice
DMX … Silk
Matthew Harrison … Dave
Terry Chen … Kung
Derek Lowe … Chinese Messenger
Ronin Wong … New Prisoner
For full cast information and additional details see IMDB listing.
An attempt to get guys to watch Romeo & Juliet? This reminds me of Terminator Hamlet from Last Action Hero.
What is an unusual departure from the Shakespeare here is an awareness of using Juliet’s character as a bartering point – a possession, an “asset”. In a sense, she has more agency because she denounces her family’s business as “nothing to do with me”, but in another sense she becomes quite literally a pawn (asset).
Romeo Must Die is engaging in the division between the lovers along several lines (though I’m not sure to what extent, based simply on the trailer this is accurate): race and family. The Romeo character–played by Jet Li–develops a relationship with Trish (the family’s daughter?) and is compelled to rescue her from some dire circumstance. A bit more overtly violent than the original. The Juliet character also seems to be a damsel-in-distress, quite unlike Shakespeare’s Juliet…who more or less perpetuates her own demise.
I wholly agree with Marg’s take on Juliet. This film also seems to be giving Romeo a masculine agency that he never fully achieves in the play. Shakespeare’s Romeo is less the save-the-day type, and more the black-clouds-brooding-and-trouble-follows-him-wherever-he-goes kind of beau.