Thursday, May 5, 2011

"Kiss of the Dragon" (2001)

Starring Jet Li, Bridget Fonda and Tcheky Karyo
Written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Directed by Chris Nahon
Rated R - Violence, language, drug use
Running Time: 100 minutes

Kiss of the Dragon [Blu-ray]Liu Siu-jian (Jet Li) is a Chinese government agent sent to Paris, France, to help apprehend a heroin smuggler.  Instead, his contact in the Parisian police, Jean-Pierre Richard (Tchecky Karyo) turns out to be totally, totally corrupt and frames Liu (who he constantly refers to as "Johnny") for the murder of the smuggler and a prostitute.  Liu manages to escape, along with videotape evidence of his innocence.  Another prostitute, Jessica (Bridget Fonda) also escapes by hiding in the bathroom.

Now on the run from the French police, Liu attempts to prove his innocence to his government, but the liaison is killed when Richard's men interrupt the meeting, and Liu loses the videotape.  He eventually meets Jessica, who just so happens to whore herself out in front of the restaurant where Liu is hiding out.  He realizes that she can help him prove his innocence, but she refuses to testify since Richard has kidnapped her daughter as leverage.  Until her daughter is safe, Jessica won't risk helping Liu.

"Kiss of the Dragon" is a pretty middling martial arts action film.  After watching "Ip Man" and "Ip Man 2," the faults of "Kiss of the Dragon" seem more pronounced.  The story is based heavily around coincidence - What are the odds that Richard's personal prostitute just happens to camp out in front of the store where Liu is hiding?  None of the dialogue is all that memorable, either, which means it's up to the fights and action sequences to hold the entire thing up.

But frankly, those fights just aren't all that great.  Jet Li is in fine form, as always, but he isn't allowed the freedom in this very Hollywood production to do what he does best - unleash himself.  The fights are competent, but lack the artistry and near-impossibility of those incredible Hong Kong film battles.  There are some flashes of cool, such as when Liu fights Richard's men in a laundry and ends up double-fisted fighting with a couple of hot laundry irons, or at the climax of the film when he takes on a room full of French martial arts students.  Two centerpiece fights between Liu and Richard's top agents, first at the restaurant and then in some cubicles at the police station, are pretty cool but mostly straight-forward slugfests.

If you're a huge enough Jet Li fan that you need to watch this, go right ahead.  It's decent, but nothing particularly special.  The fights are fine, but not impressive enough to be truly memorable.