Romeo Must Die (* ½) (Out of 4) – Romeo Must Die bills itself as an update of Shakespeare’s classic romantic tragedy – albeit with a lot of kicking. However, I have trouble remembering Romeo’s big prison break or the King of Cats knocking off land owners for the Capulets. Truth is the latest martial arts actioner owes about as much to Romeo and Juliet as Strange Brew does to Hamlet.The hero’s name isn’t even Romeo and the love interest isn’t Juliet. But they do belong to rival families and that’s where the similarities end in Jet Li’s latest return-to-hero status, a film promised to him by Joel Silver if he played the villain in the much more entertaining Lethal Weapon 4. Jet Li plays the son of an Asian gang leader who kicks his way out of prison to investigate the murder of his brother. While stealing a cab he ends up giving a ride to the daughter (rap star Aaliyah) of the rival gang leader (Delroy Lindo, bringing a level of dignity to the proceedings) and begins to form a relationship with her that is never fleshed out or believable. The daughter is constantly followed around by the most annoying character of the movie, a chubby dim-witted bodyguard whose only purpose is to laugh at his own bad jokes and then get his ass kicked as often as possible. In any action film, the comic relief is usually a good guy or even a bad guy who redeems himself in the end by helping the good guy. In Romeo Must Die, for most of the film I was unsure of whom I was supposed to be rooting for. This is a little disconcerting when Jet Li is kicking everyone in sight and since he is obviously the hero – is everyone a bad guy? After the film was over, I was shocked to discover that eight fight sequences took place during the running time. The reason I was shocked was that the only thing I remember about any of the fights was that some of Jet Li’s moves were enhanced. Jackie Chan always makes the point of letting us know that he does everything, even proving it by showing the stunts that go wrong during the end credits. If the special effects involved in making Jet Li suspend in mid-air while walking on wooden beams and kicking five guys were good enough, maybe I wouldn’t be making such a fuss. But his moves are so fake during a number of fights that he looks like the Keystone Kops on speed. This isn’t The Matrix where there was a reason the characters could defy gravity and even Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne trained to make the fight sequences as authentic as possible. A martial arts picture with the aid of strings is like the magician giving away his best tricks, so what’s special about Romeo Must Die? The answer to that is absolutely nothing. The action is less than thrilling with some annoying X-ray vision moments to put us inside the body when a spine cracks. The characters are generic and have nothing to do with Shakespeare. I appreciate a complex story in an action film, but killing off business owners to buy land for a new football stadium? This even parallels to a ridiculous football/action scene where Jet Li admits to know nothing about American football – yet spins the football on its tip upon scoring a touchdown.Modern updates of classic works can be an interesting viewing to view the liberties taken by the filmmakers with the new project. Too much is attempted during Romeo Must Die, but all of it fails leaving the audience seeing nothing accomplished and yearning for a Jackie Chan film, dubbed or not.