With Valentine’s Day taking place over the weekend I decided to base my selection on that greatest of romantic stories (or as some might argue greatest failure of Romance) Romeo and Juliet. I’d seen most of the straight adaptations so I went with the looser versions and when I say that boy do I mean loose. To the point that neither of them had anything to do with the play beyond being about a pair of lovers from rival groups.
The first on my list, Romanoff and Juliet is a fun little film based on a play by the same name by Peter Ustinov. If I’d known more about it as something to do as a double feature with A Mouse That Roared as they are both light hearted Cold War satires featuring tiny imaginary countries.
Romanoff and Juliet is all about the country of Concordia, a country so poor that it’s only international trad is counterfeiting collectible stamps and so small it’s listed in the United Nation’s roll call as a footnote. This becomes very important when it’s discovered that they have a tie breaking vote in the general assembly which both the United States and the Soviet Union want… just as soon as they can find out where Concordia is!
In the middle of this diplomatic wrangling the son and the daughter of the American and Soviet ambassadors (it’s best not to ask how Concordia has American, Soviet and British consulates if nobody knows where they are.)
What makes this entertaining is Ustinov as the president of Concordia. He serves as this hilarious trickster figure exploiting the fears and paranoias and gleefully playing them off each other so as to get everyone to leave Concordia alone.
The next on my list, Romeo Must Die, plays slightly more lip service to the source material but not that much. For the most part it’s an American version of a standard Hong Kong crime film staring Jet Li. When Jet Li’s characterHan escapes from a Hong Kong prison when he finds out his brother was killed, seemingly in part of a gang war between Chinese and African American gangs. When he arrives he joins forces with the daughter of one of the gang leaders Trish, played by late singer Aaliyah. From there they uncover a conspiracy that is taking out gang members from both sides as well as local businesses as part of convoluted plan to buy up waterfront properties so as to build a new stadium for a new NFL team.
For the most part the action in this film is entertaining, and Jet Li’s fight scenes are at their usual level of quality, but the rest of it is just embarrassingly silly.