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Introduction
The old cop thriller genre has been exploited so many times now, with Hollywood frequently throwing a bunch of clichés into the mix and calling it an original film, with an original plot - problem is, most viewers are sick of the constant poor rehashing, in which nothing new or revolutionary ever emerges.

With this optimistic image in my mind, I sat down to watch Romeo is Bleeding: a film that can be best dubbed a cop thriller…but will it be any different?

Romeo is Bleeding
The Film
Jack Grimaldi (Gary Oldman) is a seasoned New York City cop who specialises in organised crime. His job is to watch gangsters for a living. Once, in the faded past of his youth, it was an important job, but now Jack sees that life on the other side of the binoculars has that little extra something that he is missing - extra sex, extra money, extra excitement. So, he starts walking on both sides of the street, splitting his loyalty between the mobsters and the law, and his affections between his loving wife (Annabella Sciorra) and a willing mistress (Juliette Lewis). He’s just taking what he thinks he’s earned, until life sends him what he truly deserves - hit woman Mona Demarkov (Lena Olin), a woman whose trigger finger is as deadly as her powers of seduction. And Jack is about to run headlong into his own apocalyptic day of reckoning...

I suppose the plot is fairly original in the fact that a whole mix of characters are thrown into a gangster-esque situation and forced to react, which they certainly do before the end credits roll.

For instance, the titular character, Jack Grimaldi, (dubbed ‘Romeo’ at one point) is a man of mixed loyalties, a scarred individual who has continued to live an unproductive life, although he is in a position where he can jack it all in and live a perfectly respectable existence: he has a loving wife, a solid home and no doubt the opportunity to land a decent job. However, he doesn’t, and he continues to live off gangsters’ orders, something that at all times can be deadly.

Grimaldi has a willing mistress, who is supposedly head-over-heels in love with him and tries to communicate her feeling at all times, but then things get even more out of shape when a rather attractive hit woman turns up into Grimaldi’s life, with casual sex and much seduction ensuing, as both parties try and get one over each other, and Grimaldi gets interested in a pay-off whilst dodging the various Mob figures after him.

Romeo is Bleeding is indeed quite enjoyable, a thriller that is engrossing at times but slow at other points - so a bit of see-saw riding commences until the finale occurs, and the viewer is left with the feeling that whilst it delivered, it lacked something to turn this into a very good film.

And what is that something? Is it a fault of the acting, the script, or the direction? Well, I would probably have to say that the acting is fine: Gary Oldman in particular is good as the main character, alongside Lena Olin’s fine performance as the temptress. The direction is fine, suiting the mood of the film as well as it could…meaning the script must be the flaw.

Yes, to some extent it does lack actually. Whilst the plot is intriguing and the characters developed, there is something that is missing throughout the narrative that makes the film pale in comparison with other fine thrillers - such as Pulp Fiction, which possessed a vibrant and intelligent script from Mr Tarantino.

Overall, there is nothing wrong or repulsive about the film…it’s just that with another draft or two, and a bit more polishing here and there, this could have been a very enjoyable watch.

Romeo is Bleeding
Video
1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. The first thing that struck me regarding the state of the print was that the colours lacked some fine definition: whilst it was clear that this is heads above VHS, the sharpness and clarity of other releases was missing…even those from the same year this film was released (1993) and even before. However, the transfer itself makes up for this with no dust or grain, nor any other artefacts, to worsen the viewing experience. Good, but not as good as one would perhaps have expected.

Romeo is Bleeding
Audio
Dolby Digital 2.0 (English & French). Again all that is on offer with this MGM re-release is a lacking 2.0 soundtrack - and considering this film has action in it, it is annoying that full use of the soundstage wasn’t delivered with a 5.1 mix. What we get though is clear, if not that ambient, so all in all this is a just above-average audio track that could have been improved with more clarity and definition; but greatly improved if the surrounds were used too.

Romeo is Bleeding
Extras
The only extra on offer is a measly theatrical trailer, although it is fairly well strung together.

The menus are static, but easy to navigate.

Romeo is Bleeding
Overall
This isn’t the most revolutionary film, or one that deserves to be remembered for another decade. If it was not for its DVD release this year, I doubt Romeo is Bleeding would get a mention anywhere in the film industry, however admittedly it may have its fans out there somewhere (note to those fans: go out and see other, better films).

That paragraph makes it sound as if I didn’t enjoy the film - but in fact I think that it is a modest thriller that is worth a watch to commemorate its DVD release, but not to purchase as one watch is enough. The package itself is another typical MGM re-release let down: OK video; OK-ish audio; and appalling, almost non-existent extras. Grr. Rent if you must, buy if you’re either Gary Oldman’s number one fan or if you possess a bad taste in DVDs.


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