This weekend marks 20 years since the release of the epic action film, Romeo Must Die. Starring Jet Li and the late Aaliyah, the two star in this modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet as their mob leader fathers rival it out in an increasingly violent mob war in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The film is notable for having the romantic pairing be between an Asian man and a Black woman. In that same vein though, the film has been critiqued over the past two decades over the kiss scene between the two at the end that was left behind on the cutting room floor, after a test audience disapproved of it.
Having seen the film for the first time last fall, I actually didn’t mind the hug at the end. The father of Han (Li) just shot himself to death while he was still in the room. While the relationship between the two ended on much different terms than where they were at the beginning of the film, that still had to have been a traumatizing moment. As for Trish (Aaliyah), her father wasn’t left in a good position either, for he was wounded from a gunshot. After everything the two had been through that night alone, to have them kiss afterwards would have been very poorly timed; a sentiment that even Li pointed out in a post he wrote on his website back in 2004.
While the last scene in Romeo Must Die wouldn’t have worked too well for a kiss, that’s not to say that there shouldn’t have been a kiss scene at all. Instead, a kiss could have occurred right when Han and Trish were about to fight Meriana Sing (Francoise Yip). It’s such an elaborately choreographed fight scene that’s practically like a dance. If Han was able to wink at Trish before it was about to go down, then why not toss in a kiss as well?
Perhaps an even better scene is when Han and Trish are dancing for real at a nightclub, to Aaliyah’s song, “Are You Feelin’ Me?”. While they are there to investigate what’s going on, they take a brief moment to just enjoy themselves and their company. They could have just as easily kissed in that scene.
An added bonus could have been in the music video for Aaliyah’s “Try Again” — a song created for the Romeo Must Die soundtrack. Li appears in the music video in several cute moments with her; so much to where once again, a kiss could have been plopped in there.
Unfortunately, this is one of those thought experiments where one can speculate, but know that it can never happen at this point. While I understand the outrage over Li and Aaliyah’s characters not sharing a kiss at all in a film inspired by one of the most well known romances of all time, I do encourage that perhaps we reconsider if the ending was really the best moment for it to have happened.