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"Romeo Is Bleeding" Review

Because I'm not great about maintaining this site, I never wrote a review for Romeo Is Bleeding when we watched the DVD in February 2021, but looking back I see I drafted the first paragraph of a review:

"I couldn't remember much about the 1993 noir crime drama Romeo Is Bleeding other than one shot (which is one of the great foreshadowing bits in movies), that co-star Lena Olin was hot, and that it was a pretty good movie. After revisiting it for the first time in easily 20-plus years, only the first two points hold up."

 I gave it a score of 5/10. After rewatching it at the behest of the missus, I was being too generous. 

Gary Oldman stars as dirty cop Jack Grimaldi, who supplements his detective income with doing favors for Mob boss Don Falcone (Roy Scheider) via his middleman Sal (Michael Wincott). He's married to Natalie (Annabella Sciorra) and they have a cute house overlooking a cemetary. He also has a ditzy waitress side piece, Sheri (Juliette Lewis).

 After providing the location of a Mob informant (an uncredited Dennis Farina) to Falcone, the informant and the FBI babysitters all get whacked by hitwoman Mona Demarkov (Lena Olin). Jack isn't happy about fellow lawmen getting killed and when she's arrested Falcone orders Jack to kill her. Conveniently, he gets assigned to transport her to a safe house hotel and she immediately begins to seduce him and because he's clearly not the sharpest bulb in the henhouse (I never really mastered idioms) he goes along with it only to be interrupted by the Feds arriving to pick her up.

Displeased by his failure, Falcone gives Jack two days to kill Mona. Mona counters by offering him a pile of money to help her fake her death, but of course there are going to be double-crosses and twisty turns of plot as Jack's double life unravels.

What's notable about Romeo Is Bleeding is how stacked the cast is. In addition to the previously mentioned actors, Will Patton, Tony Sirico (Paulie Walnuts on The Sopranos), James Cromwell, and Ron Perlman all have bit parts. What's also notable is how mediocre the whole thing is as it borders on parody of what a noir crime story is with obligatory jazzy score heavy on double bass and wheezing saxophone. A year later Pulp Fiction would nuke the old ways the same as how Star Wars made the previous year's Logan's Run seem like something 20 years older.

Screenwriter Hilary Henkin has only a few credits with the wild context of her previous film being co-writer of the original Road House and her sole subsequent (and final) credit being the brilliant Wag The Dog for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay with legendary playwright David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross, The Untouchables) who I'm fairly certain did the heavy lifting. From the voiceover narration to the spoiler opening which tells us Jack's never in mortal peril. Director Peter Medak (that Species II may be his most known film speaks volumes) tries to jazz things up with some unique camera choices, but can't overcome the script.

(MEMO TO SCREENWRITERS/DIRECTORS: When you tell stories in flashback & we're supposed to be concerned whether the protagonist will survive perils, the fact they're alive in the present tells us they won't die, so no tension. Offenders: Atomic Blonde, Haywire, Romeo Is Bleeding)

Considering the thinness of the rote boilerplate plot, the actors don't really have characters to play as much as tropes and cartoons. Oldman is sweaty and panicked, Olin is exotic & loves being a killer in inappropriate outfit, Sciorra is cute, but Lewis is stuck as Jack's bimbette Sheri who is so dumb that when he stops by to see her after shagging Mona, I snarked to the missus, "This is like going finishing a fine steakhouse dinner then deciding to hit Taco Bell on the way home."

After finally writing up a review for Romeo Is Bleeding I hope I can finally remember that it's not as good as I remembered and stop watching it again. Spare yourself having to remember yourself.

Score: 3/10. Skip it.

This trailer's music is utterly unrelated to the film's tone. WTF?


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