Kiss of the Dragon finds Liu Jian, a Chinese police officer traveling to Paris to work in concert with the Parisian authorities in taking down an international drug smuggler. Moments before the takedown is set to occur, the smuggler is killed and Liu Jian becomes the patsy. Determined to prove his innocence, Jian sets out on a mission to bring the real culprit to justice.
Chris Nahon (Blood: The Last Vampire) directs this martial arts action thriller. The screenplay is co-penned by Luc Besson (Leon: The Professional) and Robert Mark Kamen (The Fifth Element). The pair adapted the script from an original story by Jet Li. In terms of coaching his actors, Nahon’s direction is average but as for overseeing the film’s cinematography, choreography, and the editing process, he succeeds brilliantly. As for the screenplay, it is pretty run of the mill action fare but it is brought to life in a visually striking and intense way that makes it particularly memorable.
Though Kiss of the Dragon is obviously not a horror film, it is the type of action film that will likely appeal to horror fans. There is plenty of stylized violence, a lot of bloodshed, and a ridiculously high body count. Its approach to violence has a neo-grindhouse quality to it. The fight scenes are vaguely reminiscent of the Kung Fu exploitation films of the ‘70s.
Kiss of the Dragon is one of my favorite Jet Li (Romeo Must Die) movies. It is action packed, well choreographed, and employs the use of stunning special effects. Unlike some of Li’s other films, it avoids the attempt to insert unnecessary humor and doesn’t have any character strictly there for comedic relief. The tone is serious and the result is much better than his film’s that try to play for laughs.
The pacing is very intense. Each scene builds upon the one that came before it and the final showdown is memorable for a variety of reasons.
In terms of performances, none of them are especially noteworthy. Bridget Fonda (Jackie Brown) is a little hard to take as the streetwise hooker with a heart of gold. Her performance is all over the place. But if you can get past that, all of the other players turn in showings that are at least tolerable. And really, the performances are not why one watches a Jet Li Movie. People watch his movies to see the man find inventive ways in which to kick ass. On that level, the film totally delivers.
The level of creativity that went into dreaming up the fight sequences in Kiss of the Dragon is to be commended. Li uses seemingly ordinary objects to take out anyone in his path. The pool ball scene is particularly noteworthy. It’s also impressive that only one scene in the film required wire work and only two of the fight sequences were enhanced with CGI.
This is a film that holds up well after thirteen years. It does not show its age in the way that a lot of films from its era do. The effects still look good today, even though technology has advanced at breakneck speed in the years since Kiss of the Dragon was released.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to check out Kiss of the Dragon, it is worth looking into. The film is currently available on DVD. The Blu-ray is out of print as of this posting. But this is the kind of film that you want to experience on Blu-ray. In spite of the Blu-ray disc being out of print, the Blu-Ray is still available used for under $5.00 on leading online resellers.
Director(s): Chris Nahon
Writer(s): Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen, Jet Li
Stars: Jet Li, Bridget Fonda
Studio/ Production Co: Fox
Budget: $25 Million
Language: English, Mandarin, French
Length: 98 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Martial Arts, Action-Thriller