❉ This week: Peter Medak’s mean and nasty 1993 neo-noir Romeo is Bleeding.
Peter Medak’s mean and nasty 1993 neo-noir Romeo is Bleeding is trashy, pulpy, B-movie bliss, overheated and wildly implausible, but always wickedly entertaining, and featuring a combustible Gary Oldman as a corrupt cop who gets in way over his head with one of the ultimate cinematic femme fatales, played with diseased relish by a lethally hot Lena Olin. She’s beyond dangerous, beyond sexy, and Oldman doesn’t stand a chance, while the lurid script by Hilary Henkin (Wag the God, Roadhouse) piles on a ton of violent action mixed with kinky sex and twisted humor, adding up to a unique package that never wimps out at any moment. This film barely made any impact at the box-office, and critics were mixed (and opening hostile in some quarters), but I’ve always thought this one had a sick sense of humor about itself, while still tipping its hat to previous genre entries that clearly inspired this toxic blend of insanity.
Oldman had just wrapped Tony Scott’s mid-career classic True Romance before diving into his sweaty and feverish role in Romeo is Bleeding, and his work in this film feels like a logical warm-up to his iconic performance in Luc Besson’s Leon (aka The Professional), which he’d shoot immediately after. Always a live-wire acting talent, his sense of on-screen presence is evident in every single movie he’s made, and he certainly became one of the go-to guys for sketchy baddies during the 90’s. Morally repugnant and totally out of bounds when compared to most thrillers these days, Romeo is Bleeding almost never stood a chance at the time of its brief theatrical release, but I would have to imagine it has picked up a cult following in subsequent years. I do wish that the long-rumored “arm-removal-by-chainsaw” sequence had been re-integrated into this new release, but maybe that footage is long lost?
Dariusz Wolski’s slick and gritty cinematography plays with genre conventions in a respectfully modern fashion, while Mark Isham’s trumpet-dominated score amps up the sleaze quotient to a high degree; music and image are in perfect tandem during this juicy little film. Wolski would of course become one of Tony and Ridley Scott’s favored director’s of photography in the years following the release of Romeo is Bleeding, and Isham’s credits are beyond reproach. The film also boasts an utterly fantastic supporting cast, including the luscious Annabella Sciorra, David Proval, Will Patton, Juliette Lewis, Tony Sirico, Dennis Farina, Ron Perlman, James Cromwell, Michael Wincott, and Roy Scheider as a leathered crime boss. Romeo is Bleeding would make for a perfect double-bill with Dominic Sena’s underrated thriller Kalifornia, another forgotten-about gem from the early 90’s that’s due for reappraisal.
❉ This Blu-ray release from Twilight Time is presented in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, in 1080p high definition color. Image quality is crisp and clean, without any notice of heavy digitization or color-degrading. Audio is sharp, and presented in English 2.0 DTS-HD MA. The disc is region free, and includes an isolated musical score audio track, and the film’s original theatrical trailer. Units are of course limited to 3,000, and can be found for sale at Twilight Time: https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/romeo-is-bleeding-blu-ray/
❉ Twilight Time Movies release classic catalogue Blu-ray and DVD titles available for a limited time, exclusively in limited runs of 3000 copies. For more information, visit https://www.twilighttimemovies.com
❉ Nick Clement is a freelance writer, having contributed to Variety Magazine, Hollywood- Elsewhere, Awards Daily, Back to the Movies, and Taste of Cinema. He’s currently writing a book about the works of filmmaker Tony Scott, and co-operates the website Podcasting Them Softly.
❉ He is also a regular contributor for MovieViral.com, a site dedicated to providing the best news and analysis on viral marketing and ARG campaigns for films and other forms of entertainment.