Kiss of the Dragon Review
Kiss Of The Dragon firmly and quite convincingly deposits Jet Li into the minds of mainstream audiences and presents quite a convincing case that he is the leading man of Martial Arts Hollywood cinema. The position was for the taking, and Kiss Of The Dragon puts the case to rest. Li has never been the most charismatic of martial acts actors, and his handling of the English language still requires much attention, but Kiss Of The Dragon demonstrates his immense screen presence in the action genre, and is possibly the most entertaining action film of the year.
Based on a story conceived by Li and co written by Luc Besson, Kiss Of The Dragon tells of a Chinese intelligence officer Liu Jian (Li), who is assigned to help the French intelligence in Paris for a mission that is never made very clear, almost as if the audience is only on a need-to-know basis. A Chinese official is then murdered by the morally corrupt French detectives headed by an Inspector Richard (Tcheky Karyo), and Jian is the patsy who the blame is thrusted on. However, Jian has the evidence that can clear his name, and with the help of a prostitute named Jessica (Bridget Fonda) who is also linked to Richard through the kidnapping of her daughter, the two must ensure that justice is done and inflict vengeance on Richard and his army.
The plot is quite ridiculous, and in hindsight was hard to follow, but surprisingly this doesn't matter at all in the cinema, as director Chris Nahon handles the pace of Kiss Of The Dragon deftly, and from the opening credits through the film's finale, the film is bursting to the brim with tension and is relentless in its action level. Jet Li doesn't say much, but his actions quite literally speak louder than his words. There have been other martial acts actors who could act better (Big Trouble In Little China's Dennis Dun was highly under-appreciated), but Li seems capable of being an A-list martial acts actor in big budget Hollywood movies. Bridget Fonda turns a better than average performance as the ex-junkie prostitute requiring sympathy, although she should maybe think of moving away from white trash roles before she becomes typecast. Films such as these are only as good as their villains, and Tcheky Karyo is particularly psychotic and menacing as Richard and is a memorable villain. The musical score by Craig Armstrong perfectly supported the narrative drive of the film and ensured that tension was maintained throughout.
What of the action scenes? There are quite a few and these all tended to be far fetched, entertaining, extremely violent, extremely original, tremendously gory and often very funny, which is all you could ask for in these sequences. There is a very funny scene involving Li and approximately fifty black belt karate experts, and of particular mention is a sequence involving a rather large man being stuck in a dumb waiter, although nothing more will be revealed.
Kiss Of The Dragon is a perfect remedy for the Mortal Kombat generation who require a good night's action and entertainment and nothing more. The film doesn't aim for anything other than to be a good example of its genre, and on this effort it passes the test with flying colours and certainly packs a punch.