Tromeo & Juliet is a low budget gore and sex fest that will soon become notable because of its screenwriter, James Gunn, who has been tasked with writing and directing the next major tent-pole in Marvel’s cinematic universe, Guardians of the Galaxy.
Tromeo & Juliet is a product of Lloyd Kaufman’s famed Troma Entertainment, producers of such films as Toxic Avenger, and Class of Nuke’em High. Troma has a very distinct style that permeates all their work. There’s sex and violence, gross-out humour, excessive gore, ambitious but unrefined monster make up, and an unceasing strive to make everything strange.
Ostensibly, the film is Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet set in Manhattan’s gangland. Tromeo’s family, led by Monty Que, is at war with Juliet’s family, the Capulets (I guess they couldn’t think of a joke name for that one). If you’re familiar with the original, there’s no need to tell you the plot. The movie hits most of the important beats from the play (complete with slightly altered names), while adding in a back-story about papa Capulet stealing Que’s wife, and switching up the ending.
A few times throughout, Gunn takes text directly from the play. It fits in surprisingly well amongst the street-thug speak that fills the rest of the script. During Tromeo’s second encounter with Juliet, as he watches her at the ‘window,’ Gunn, changes the script a bit, and toys with the intent of the original. The scene works pretty well, and it’s about as witty as the movie gets, as the rest of it relies on more base humour.
Is it funny? he move relies on being strange and uncomfortable to drive the humour, but that sort of thing has a limited shelf life. Troma’s style was novel when they first started out, but now we see this kind of comedy all over the place. Uncomfortable jokes are like surprise scares. They work the first few times, and then they don’t.
Given the low budget, the make up work is pretty impressive. Body parts are ripped off, major flesh wounds are inflicted, and a monster make up near the end of the movie looks pretty darned good. But you can still see the seams. You can tell that, as silly as the whole production is, the Troma team is doing their best. They just don’t have the budget to really make it shine.
There’s a fair bit of nudity and sex in the film, but it’s an ugly nudity. I’m not saying that the actresses are unattractive; but that the sex is often paired with gore, or some other unseemly thing that makes it less attractive. The strategy with the sex must be the same as the humour; just throw a bunch of stuff up on the screen and hope that some of it works.
It’s hard to recommend a Troma film blindly; they’re really a love/hate kind of thing. Luckily, Troma has an extensive YouTube channel with hundreds of their movies available for free (though I imagine they’re censored in some way). But if you are open to this kind of film making, Tromeo & Juliet is pleasant to watch, and the Shakespeare angle makes it just a tiny bit classier.
The Blu-ray actually looks pretty good, as long as your expectations for a low budget movie are suitably reserved. The video, presented in 4:3, is relatively sharp and free from major artifact. Colors are soft, making the movie look about ten years older than it actually is; but overall it’s better than I thought it would be.