Romeo Is Bleeding (1993)


(director: Peter Medak; screenwriter: Hilary Henkin; cinematographer: Dariusz Wolski; editor: Walter Murch; music: Mark Isham; cast: Gary Oldman (Jack Grimaldi), Lena Olin Natalie (Mona Demarkov), Annabella Sciorra (Natalie Grimaldi), Larry Joshua (Detective Joey Tate), Juliette Lewis (Sheri), Roy Scheider (Don Falcone), David Proval (Scully), James Cromwell (Cage), Will Patton (Martie Cuchinski), Paul Butler (Federal Agent Skouras), Dennis Farina (Nick Gazzara), Michael Wincott (Sal); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Paul Webster/Michael Flynn/Ms. Henkin; Gramercy Pictures; 1993)

“It’s a senseless, tasteless and demented postmodern noir that has about as much class as a gimpy $10 Times Square hooker.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

If Romeo is bleeding then the Bard must be in cardiac arrest from such a shallow, misogynistic and inert undertaking using the name of one of his best characters. It’s a senseless, tasteless and demented postmodern noir that has about as much class as a gimpy $10 Times Square hooker. Director Peter Medak (“The Ruling Class”/”Zorro the Gay Blade”/”The Krays”) shoots to make it stylish, not too concerned with how dumb and uninvolving it is; while producer/writer Hilary Henkin makes sure the screen is filled with cartoonish violence and lurid sex scenes at almost every turn. It’s a poor over-the-top attempt to be a badass amoral spoof on the dirty cop genre, and follows on the heels of the similar creepy Catholic guilt-trip dirty cop flick “Bad Lieutenant.”

Jack Grimaldi (Gary Oldman) is a NYPD sergeant on the take. He lives in a comfortable Queens house with his lovely but docile wife Natalie (Annabella Sciorra) and on the side has a sweet bimbo cocktail waitress mistress named Sheri (Juliette Lewis). For a longtime Jack has worked for mob boss Don Falcone (Roy Scheider) and has amassed a half a million dollars which he keeps secretly buried in a hole in his backyard. That Jack is an asshole and has no redeeming qualities is quickly established, so when Russian-born hitwoman Mona Demarkov (Lena Olin), the “Queen of the Queens Rackets,” enters his life and changes his good fortune, it’s hard to really care about his sudden downfall. Jack has been assigned to guard Mona, who just knocked off a key mob witness (Dennis Farina) while under federal protection and in the hit also knocked off a room full of lawmen. Jack collected $65,000 for telling Falcone the stoolie’s location. Now Falcone wants to know the safe house where the feds are keeping Mona, because she cut a deal with the feds. When her location is changed and Jack doesn’t know where she’s at, Falcone removes a toe from Jack’s foot because he’s reluctant to kill her and threatens to kill him and his loved ones if she’s not executed by the next day. As things go over-the-top and spin out of control, a gimpy Jack owns up to Natalie that he’s been a dirty cop and gives her the stashed loot and arranges for her to go on the run out West, and promises to meet her sometime next week or in the future on May 1st or December 1st. Meanwhile Jack gets double-crossed by Mona, who arranged to pay him over three hundred thousand dollars to get her a false ID while she fakes her death. At every turn Jack is outmatched by Mona and ends up her captive, where he endures her humiliating lengthy cackle of a laugh at his ineptitude and then is forced while cuffed to a bed to have some S&M sex with the ferocious one-armed hardboiled lady. Things mercifully end with Jack, now given a new name from the “witness protection program,” waiting behind the counter of a desolate Arizona desert diner and in a crazed state dreaming of Natalie walking through the door—something he realizes will not happen since he’s been waiting for five years.

The film has zilch working for it, except for two things: Lena Olin is campy fun as the menacing crazed femme fatale with the feverish high-pitched laugh when she’s a naughty girl and Scheider’s ruthless gangster character telling Oldman with a straight face a story about the pacifist poet Robert Lowell and the Murder, Inc. gangster from Brownsville, Louis Lepke, being in the same prison—one for not wanting to kill and the other for killing.