Romeo Must Die is an action film whose plot is loosely related to William Shakespeare‘s Romeo and Juliet. It is the first movie that appears to have been selected from a rap magazine. It was directed by Polish cinematographer and director Andrzej Bartkowiak, starring Jet Li cast as Han and Aaliyah cast as the gorgeous Trish. Romeo Must Die is considered Jet Li’s breakout role in a Hollywood film and sadly the first and last film featuring R&B superstar Aaliyah to be released while she was alive.


Han’s brother, Po is in a nightclub in a predominantly black neighborhood when a fight breaks out. Po is saved by his father’s men but is found dead the following day. Han, who was a former policeman but at the time incarcerated in Hong Kong, learns of his brother’s demise. He stages an escape so audacious it leaves the prison guards perplexed.

Isaak who is an African American entrepreneur and gang leader has a business partnership with Po’s father; Ch’u. Ch’u is a Chinese crime lord. The two have been purchasing real estate along the Oakland waterfront to sell to a developer who is planning to buy an NFL team and build a stadium in that area.

Han makes his way to Oakland. He discovers that his brother made a call to Trish’s record store the day before his assassination. After a chance encounter, Han befriends Trish. At Po’s funeral, Han stands up to his father and blames him for not protecting his brother. This is after he had assisted them to escape Chinese authorities and flee to America, landing himself in jail. Trish’s brother is murdered, that same night, along with her girlfriend by being thrown out of their highrise apartment.

The two now have to work together to get to the root of the problem afflicting their two-warring families and they inevitably fall for each other.


Producer Joel Silver is looking for something fresh and authentic in American action films in the late 90s and he turns to Hong Kong Action Cinema where Li is an acclaimed actor. Over and above influence from Hong Kong martial arts, the production team also incorporates a new visual technique; exhibition of martial arts fighting in X-ray vision. It was tested in a single fight scene and tested in front of an audience and they used it throughout the film because the crowd loved it.


Romeo Must Die was released in America on DVD on August 1, 2002, and on Blu-ray, August 14, 2012, and It debuted at no. 2 in the US box office. The film grossed $91,036,760 worldwide against a production budget of $25,000,000.


The film’s soundtrack; Romeo Must Die: The Album is a hip hop and R&B soundtrack released by Blackground Record and Virgin Records America. It debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and sold 203,000 in the first week and sold 1.3 million copies by the end of 2000. It was produced by Aaliyah, Timbaland, Barry Hankerson, and Jomo Hankerson.

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