Romeo is Bleeding (1992) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Tuna's notes


Romeo Is Bleeding (1993) is the same old "corrupt cop gets in over his head" story, this time with Gary Oldman as a NYPD sergeant who is building up a retirement nest egg by selling the locations of protected witnesses to the mob. He is juggling a wife and a girlfriend, but gets in way over his head when asked to finger Lena Olin, a Russian Mafia type, and a very frightening individual.

When his first tip on her location proves wrong (it had never occurred to the best brains in the Mafia that the feds could move a witness), the mob cuts off his toe to insure loyalty, then orders him to kill Olin. Olin, on the other hand, offers him flesh, and tons of money, to help her. MTV thought Olin deserved a nomination for best action performance, probably for the scene where she is shot in the leg, cuffed, and knocked unconscious in the back of a police car, then and causes Oldman to lose control of the car by crushing his head with her thighs, allowing her to  escape through the windshield.

For me, the only things worthy of note in this film were Olin's breasts, which she showed from every possible angle in front of a mirror, while wearing a leather thong outfit. She also showed most of her buns, and her pantied crotch in other scenes. When I am overtired, I put an action thriller on to keep me awake. I was wide awake when I started this one, and was snoring before the exciting ending.


DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen

  • no meaningful features



see Tuna's main commentary

Scoop's notes


My reaction here is a strange one. Tuna hated this, and the critics did as well, but I thought it was dynamite. I agree with Tuna that there isn't enough action for action fans, and there's not really much of a plot either. And I also agree with Ebert that it is an exercise in overwrought style and overwritten melodrama. But I think that was the point. It's a stylistic parody of the genre, but a very loving parody, kidding only in the sense that we kid the friends we really love. The use of gothic camera angles and deep-focus photography was especially reminiscent of the 1940's noir films. It is, in fact, a nearly perfect 1940's film, except it's about about the 1990's and is in color.

Some of my favorite elements:

  • Atmosphere. It evokes a special feeling when it photographs abandoned urban areas right in the middle of New York.
  • Deep focus. There is one scene in which a corrupt cop and a baddie are walking in front of and away from a ferris wheel, where everything stays in focus. There is a another scene in which the cop in the street is going to shoot Lena Olin in a third story window, and the camera shoots up from below his waist toward the window, keeping everything in focus - his face, his arm, the silhouettes on the shade. Marvelous!
  • Over-the-top characters. There is a great scene where Gary Oldman (the crooked cop) dances with glee on a rooftop, because he's just picked up some info on a protected witness that will net him 65 grand from the mob. We see him as giddy as a schoolboy on the rooftop, with all of New York as his backdrop. And he's actually dancing because he possesses something that will result in the death of many of his fellow officers. Helluva guy! Lena Olin also created a memorable character as the hit woman, Demarkov. That was one tough, evil woman right there. Lena also gets a special nomination from me as one of the five non-native English speakers who could pass for American if you met them at a party and they wanted to fool you. (Rutger Hauer, Paulina Porizkova, Olin, Julie Delpy, Nastassia Kinski). In fact, Lena's American English is so good I'm not sure if it made sense to have her playing a Russian here (she's Swedish).
  • Judicious use of voice-over. It's one of the few films which has impressed me with a voice-over, by using it sparingly to enhance the mood, which is de rigueur in any homage to 40's noir.
  • Mood. The final scene, in and around a diner, on a deserted stretch of Arizona Highway, in which Oldman is alone with his memories, is a masterpiece of mood. He imagines his enemy coming through the door. He imagines his long-lost love returning through the door. He doesn't know what's real, and neither do we at first. Then he ends up sitting at the gas pumps. The panorama shows everything covered with sand, no cars in sight, no life in sight, only an endless vista of sand. Just Oldman and his scrapbook, while the saxophone wails. Pretty cool. And the content of the scrapbook surprised me.

Since the film is pure 1940s, including the dialogue, accents, and camera angles, I would have liked it better if it had been shot in black and white, but I liked it just fine as it was. Of course, you must understand that I like this kind of movie. If, on the other hand, you don't like the old-fashioned gangster noir pictures, filled with tough cops, exaggerated New York accents, and vicious baddies ... well, then it really won't be your kind of thing.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two stars.

    • Ebert 2/4 "Romeo is Bleeding is an exercise in overwrought style and overwritten melodrama, and proof that a great cast cannot save a film from self-destruction."

    • Berardinelli 2/4 it "isn't just an homage to the genre, it's a satire as well -- a satire that has the unfortunate tendency to take itself too seriously"

    • 3/5 "Not much about Romeo is Bleeding sticks with you for long"

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 23 articles on file. 25% positive, but that could be 0% just as easily, because the one positive review is's 3/5

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it  6.1/10. IMDB voters were more enthusiastic than the critics, but sharply divided
  • "The most original contemporary film where a female dominates the action in such a grotesque and inhumane way leaving the viewer unsure of what he has seen; and not just once, but several times"
  • "Pretentious 'noir' wannabe with the boom mike getting nearly as much camera time as the star"
  • "Romeo is Bleeding is a riveting thriller. It is a contemporary film noir"
  • with their dollars .. domestic gross only $3 million


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C- (Tuna) to C+ (Scoop).

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