Kiss of the Dragon (2001) Review

"Kiss of the Dragon" American Theatrical Poster

"Kiss of the Dragon" American Theatrical Poster

Director: Chris Nahon
Writer: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
Producer: Luc Besson, Jet Li
Cast: Jet Li, Bridget Fonda, Tcheky Karyo, Laurence Ashley, Burt Kwouk, John Forgeham, Colin Prince, Max Ryan, Cyril Raffaelli, Didier Azoulay, Vincent Glo, Ric Young, Vincent Wong
Running Time: 98 min.

By Mairosu

Liu Jian (Jet Li) is a top drawer Chinese cop, and also a master acupuncturist (yes, sounds silly, I know). He is summoned from China to help the local DEA bust a Chinese drug lord in Paris, but what he doesn’t know – or expect – is that the French chief policeman Richard (Tchéky Karyo) plans on killing the mobster himself, seizing his property and then setting up Jian for the whole thing. As that happens, Jian manages to escape and obtain a tape with visual evidence underway, and faces a daunting task of uncovering Richard’s shady web of corruption while trying to help a street hooker (Bridget Fonda) whose daughter is held hostage by Richard himself.

From the four films – not counting Lethal Weapon pt. 4 – Jet Li did since coming to Hollywood (other ones being Romeo Must Die, The One and Cradle 2 the Grave), this one is probably the easiest swallowable of them all – and by no means we’re comparing this to any of his Asian martial arts classics. The plot is contrived, full of holes and predictable, but this film relatively manages to redeem itself through a number of good factors which on the overall make this a very watchable action fare.

First, we have the pint-sized martial arts icon Jet Li firmly grabbing the center stage in a style Bruce Lee once did. Throughout the whole film his face is nearly emotionless as he beats up dozens after dozens bad guys, and you can hardly even notice sweat dripping from his face. Li takes his punches in a stoical fashion and delivers them in the same manner, radiating the “coolness” Bruce Lee had in his 70s films, and his acupunctural trait colours his character additionally, giving him somewhat more depth than the usual arsenal of hacks and kicks.

Then, there is Tchéky Karyo, in a role he could do almost blindfolded by now – the near-maniacal psychotic dealing with drugs or some other illegality – and he does it again with success. Quickly turning into the French equivalent of Jack Nicholson, with the filmmakers racing to cast him as many times as a lunatic as possible, the Istanbul-born Frenchman dominates the scenes in which he appears, masterfully portraying a power-hungry cop drifting deeper and deeper to the other side of the law, yet also being lucidically gentle and caring at the times.

Finally, what makes all this work is the brilliant direction of debutant director Chris Nahon. Nahon, who cut his teeth making music videos, blends great action with hip-hop music (without, amazingly enough, looking totally tacky) in the background and the mixture of both helps this film look visually – and aurally – as good as it does, slick and enjoyable. The martial arts choreography is done by Corey Yuen, a long-serving accomplice to Jet Li, and is on a reasonably high level – although some scenes, most notably the shot in which Li volleys a pool ball straight into the head of one of the baddies, are a bit over the top. Also, are we to believe one man can handle a room full of black belt martial artists who are armed with sticks ?

The annoying fact no. 1 with this film is that it acts as a 50s Hollywood WW2 feature – the Chinese speak English with Chinese accent to themselves, and the French communicate between each other, accordingly, in Flanglais , relegating the authenticity to zero level. I have been to France and frankly, if SO many people spoke English in there, the place would have been much more fun than it was. It would all have looked much more better if the characters were left communicating in their own languages, as it’s really silly to watch Karyo run through the local police station yelling “sound ze alarm !”. Bridget Fonda does her job routinely as a poor American farm girl who goes astray, but the few emotional scenes and humour lines don’t help her character – at least they didn’t involve a romantic aspect to the story.

So, when we ignore those couple of flaws and a emmenthaler-holed script and plotline, Kiss of the Dragon is a quite acceptable modern “kick flick”. For some different flavour, try obtaining the French version of the disc and watching it in French with subtitles, and don’t miss Burt Kwouk, legendary Cato from the Pink Panther films, who has a minor role as Jet Li’s Parisian-based uncle.

Mairosu’s Rating: 7/10


By Woody

Ingredients: 1 Jet Li , 1 Bridget Fonda, Cool French Locales, 1 teaspoon “The Professional”, and 1 tablespoon of Corey Yuen.

Instructions: Sprinkle Jet Li and Bridget Fonda among the cool French locales, mix in a tablespoon of Corey Yuen and a teaspoon of “The Professional”, strain out any bit of plot you may happen upon, and voila! You’ve got yourself the best American martial arts film I think I have ever seen.

The plot here is unimportant…this is pretty much just a showcase for the choreography of Corey Yuen and the undeniable coolness of Jet Li. This is pretty much wall-to-wall fights with pauses here and there to set up even more fights. And what great fights they are. My personal favorite comes near the end, when Jet fights these two huge blonde haired twin dudes. You can tell they had a lot of fun with that one. What I don’t remember is whether that scene comes before or after the scene where Jet Li fights all of the guys inside the dojo that is inside of the police station. So the movie doesn’t make much sense. The coolness of it all more than makes up for that.

Jet is also equipped with some really cool acupuncture needles that can make people fall asleep, become paralyzed, and wait ’till you see what the one he uses on the bad guy at the end of the film does. It’s pretty icky. As a matter of fact, there is a pretty good amount of icky stuff in this movie…the violence is actually violent, unlike the ultra-tame “Romeo Must Die”.

The acting is not bad either. Jet Li’s English is much better than before, and he is charming as always. Bridget Fonda gives a better performance that her underwritten role deserves. She gives what could have been an overly melodramatic, tragic character (a woman forced into prostitution by a man who is keeping her daughter from her) a very funny and ditzy attitude that makes her scenes rather enjoyable to watch. The only weak link in the film, in my opinion, is Tcheky Karyo, who plays the villain, a corrupt French police captain. The character wants to be Gary Oldman’s twisted cop form “Leon: The Professional”, but Karyo lacks the presence and demented charm that an actor like Oldman can give such a role.

That weak point aside, this is Jet Li’s best movie in a while, so don’t let the bad box office totals fool you into thinking this is a bad movie. It is truly Hong Kong in feel, with one well done fight after another, lotsa violence, and a fast pace. Right up there with “Enter The Dragon” and “Drive” in my list of best American martial arts films. Worth a rental, and, if you are a big martial arts fan, worth buying.

Woody’s Rating: 9/10


By Klotera

Ok, the basic premise of the film is fairly generic. But, I can accept that – as it seemingle exists to push along the action. What I can’t accept is the utter disaster of a screenplay that flows from that premise. It’s just pathetic. The dialogue, particularly between Li and Fonda, is so forced and fake its nauseating. Like I said, though, the film is mostly to push along the action – as it clearly demonstrates by getting into a long action scene within minutes of the film’s opening credits.

So, how does the action hold up? Well, it looks like Corey Yuen has some decent fights choreographed for us… I think. I’m not quite sure cause I COULDN’T SEE WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON! The fight scenes are filmed horribly, with tons of close shots, quick cuts, and handheld camera action. What seems like solid action is hard to appreciate given the camera. I didn’t even realize that the last fight was with two guys until halfway through the fight – if that gives you an idea how bad the quick cut camera is. So, maybe an okay one-time viewing for the action if you can stomach the camera. Other than that – this is a no go.

Klotera’s Rating: 5/10


By Yi-Long

First of all – Fonda SUCKED in this movie. Maybe it was her acting that sucked (I have seen no other movies that she’s in so I have no idea if she is always this annoying in a movie, but in this movie she sucked) or just the part her character has in this movie that sucked (I know I mentioned the word ‘sucks’ 3 times already in the first sentence which is never a good sign in a movie review unless I was reviewing a Cat-III movie, which this isn’t, but stick with me. I DID enjoy this movie…really…I swear…

Second of all, the acupuncture-thing was a bit lame I thought…original…but lame…it kinda ruined the ending for me. Ok then…those were the things I didn’t like about the movie, here come the good things; Jet Li is soooo COOL in this movie, it’s just great to watch him in these kinds of roles. For example the scene in which he escapes from some thugs in the hotel by the window to some room below and he just casually walks through someone’s bedroom – the way he glances over to the man in the bed who watches him walk by while he is calmly reading a book is BRILLIANT!…and there are so many of these small but very cool moments in this movie.

The fight scenes are fun and better then the ones he had in Lethal Weapon (duhhh!) or in RMD, but they are NOT as good as the ones in Fist of Legend (but that would be very hard to do anyways so even though we all hoped they would be, it would have been pretty surprising if they had matched that level of excellence). Sometimes I had some trouble seeing the action but that was probably to blame because I was sitting in a HK movie theatre where they had a pretty big screen in a pretty small room so I was a bit too close to the screen to really take in all that fast action. The fights are pretty sweet, it was nice to see Jet fight many people at once like he did in Fist of Legend and in My father is a Hero but the fight isn’t as long in this one, which is too bad. The 2 gwailo’s show talent but they are all brawn and no brain, plus they aren’t really the REAL bad-ass in this movie that has to get a beating, so it was pretty disappointing to see how Jet takes care of the main villains.

The double-gwailo fight didn’t really feel like a FINALE-fight…more like a WARM-UP fight be-4 jet would take care of the REAL villain, but I also understand that his character’s lack of fighting skills wouldn’t really have made an interesting fight-scene. The story in this movie isn’t really great, new or original or anything like that – just a simple story about a man that gets falsely accused and has to run to prove his innocence (btw..what’s Harrison Ford been up-to lately?) Nothing special in the story department but that’s not ‘really’ important (actually it IS but I liked this movie so in THIS case I say it ISN’t…ok!?. Thanks for understanding) if it’s entertaining to watch cause then u can just simply call it mindless entertainment which I will do in the following sentence which also happens to be my conclusion to this review…coincidence?? I think not…

All-in-all, this is a pretty straightforward action movie which isn’t really innovative or original, but does happen to be very entertaining which makes it a mindless fun (there it is) movie which will certainly only further establish Jet Li reputation as today’s coolest and most talented action-star in the world. I rate this movie an 8/10, simply because of Jet’s performance (although the lame acupuncture thing and Fonda role SHOULD have cost this movie a point).

Yi-Long’s Rating: 8/10


By Dan-O

Things I learned from this movie.

  • Jet Li still blows apes. Haven’t really liked one movie of his yet.
  • I have better things to do with my time than sit through a Jet Li movie, like castrating myself with a thumbtack.
  • Did I mention… yeah, Jet Li blows apes.
  • There were no apes in this movie, but I’m sure Jet Li was found on occasion scouting the Planet of the Apes set… you know…. for companionship.
  • My god, it’s the French guy from “Addicted to Love”!!! Ooooh… What a bad ass (French=Lameass, not French=Badass… silly rabbit)!
  • Um… Bridget Fonda. GAWD what a load. WhineWhineWhine, my daughter this, my daughter that. Give Jet a BJ already.. sheesh. Like he REALLY wants to hear YOU talk.
  • ANYONE can perform acupuncture! Just stick a needle somewhere, and watch the fun!! Shit… make it into a board game!! Anyone up for a round of “STICK-EM” tm?!
  • Jet Li’s career occasionally revolves around trying to “recreate” Bruce Lee fight scenes… homage or flaming-flying-fucking-ripoff.
  • No wires in this movie. I guess I’m supposed to like this then, eh? Then why do I watch this film and go… “ooookaaay, great, whatever, I’m fucking bored…. lalalalalalal….. “.
  • Ok, get that motherfucker who scores these Jet Li movies with those BLARING rap tunes that fuck up the flow (and the credibility) of the movie and nail him to an upsidedown cross on Sunday infront of the Roman Cathedral.
  • I did not see “Addicted to Love” on purpose. My girlfriend made me watch her copy. Really. I’m not into Matthew Broderick’s soft, sparkling eyes and pouty lips… I AM NOT!!! STOP IT!!!
  • Why, oh why, OH why, are you reading this horseshit. Your brain is oozing out your ear as you read this (LOOK DAMMIT NOW!!).
  • Jet?? What, the word “Dirigible” not good enough for ya?! What a pansy.
  • Twin blonde guys fighting. “Attack of the Swedes”. Maybe one guy should have colored his hair green or something. Perhaps a bandana. It would be nice if we knew just who the fuck is who, ya think?
  • Oh, the cueball-out-of-the-pocket-kick….. CGI. Jackie would have actually done it. There, I said it.
  • Don’t trifle with those wiggy Australian Airline pilots. They routinely pack enormous twin automatic weapons that could atomize a large elementary school
  • .

  • This movie sucked. Next.
  • Dan-O’s Rating: 3/10


    By James H.

    Firstly, I do not see this film being a big success in France. Why? Watch it and it becomes obvious. There is not one single French person in the film that is not a villain. I may have given something away just now, but no matter, it’s a martial arts movie.

    Secondly, the film stars Jet Li as a Chinese cop (dare I say Supercop?). He is set to France to work with their police to capture the bad guy from “The Corruptor”. Things go wrong. Things go very wrong. Chaos ensues as does several gunshots, punches, kicks and a gory explosion. All in the first ten minutes.

    There have been some critics who have said that the film’s plot is hard to follow. I disagree. There is no plot to follow. Sure there are some elements that resemble a plot, but it’s not fully there. It serves as a clothesline from which action sequences are hung. Anyway, the plot involves French conspiracies and an ex-junkie/hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold (played by a very un-showered Bridget Fonda).

    From the aforementioned clothesline are several fights. These fights are handled with grace and hyperkinetic energy by first time director Chris Nahon. The fights are quite violent and just so damned entertaining. It is a fun movie.

    However, I cannot fully and completely say that “Kiss of the Dragon” is a great movie. I had huge problems with the non-fighting or “plot” scenes. They were too slapped together and poorly written, but still has more brains and logic than “Romeo Must Die”.

    Li has a great screen presence and is on the right track. His English has improved as well. One can only wish him well in the future. He has plenty of talent that I think Hollywood doesn’t want to go to waste.

    “Kiss of the Dragon”” is a very violent, fast-paced and energetic martial arts film. And when it isn’t pretending to be a serious film, it’s bloody entertaining.

    James H’s Rating: 8/10


    By Numskull

    I suppose the first thing I should say here is that I have not yet seen Romeo Must Die, so I can’t compare this to Jet Li’s other American film (his sixth-billing role in Lethal Weapon 4 doesn’t count). So don’t expect a comparison.

    At the end of the day, Kiss of the Dragon is a quality action flick that certainly won’t hinder Jet Li’s Hollywood career, but it’s got its share of flaws. None of the characters has a whole lot of personality. Jet is the strong but silent type in a genre where strong but silent types are a dime a dozen. Bridget Fonda is little more than a talking head with a body attached, and her whiny speeches aren’t too convincing. And Tcheky Karyo is one of the most lame-ass villains in recent memory. The crooked law enforcement official seeking evidence of their own crimes is nothing new, and, even worse, there’s no viable explanation for this guy’s actions. He acts kind of like the Anti-Christ but, until Jet Li shows up, nobody seems to notice.

    The storyline may be simple, but at least there’s no romance in it. Jet Li came up with the original plot and he is to be commended for not following in the footsteps of so many other shitty action movies by having the good guy fall in love with (or at least bone) the girl for no reason. They get the gratuitous sex scene out of the way early, where a guy and a girl are going at it on the floor of a hotel room with their underwear on. I didn’t think that was possible, but what do I know about sex…

    The fight scenes are very well done…better than anything in one of Jackie Chan’s Hollywood movies, that’s for damn sure. They’re also more violent than you might expect. Chopsticks jammed in people’s throats, guys getting trapped in industrial strength washing machines, and so forth. The sound effects add to the in-your-face-ness quite nicely. An argument could be made in favor of wider camera angles and fewer cuts, but the way it’s done here adds to the claustrophobic feeling of fighting in close quarters, and boosts the adrenaline level.

    The musical score does a great job building the atmosphere, and the rap songs do a great job driving people out of the theater to wash their ears out with soap. I’ve never tried to hide the fact that I despise rap with every fiber of my being, but I’m willing to put up with it in a movie like this if it doesn’t get too intrusive. And it doesn’t until the end.

    In the climactic battle, Jet walks into a large room filled with office cubicles, and there’s this badass guy with blond hair waiting for him at the other side. Then another one shows up behind him, and they play cat-and-mouse with him before the real hell breaks loose. For the first time, Jet is put in a situation where he’s fighting a guy who can give him a serious run for his money. This scene should have been extraordinary…and if you watch it with the sound turned off, it is. But the stupid fucking bastards RUINED IT by putting this incredibly lame rap (or hip-hop or urban or whatever the fuck you want to call it) song on while they’re fighting and tearing up the place. I wanted to cry. No music at all would have been better than the shit they used. If you’re planning on sending me hate mail critiquing my taste in music, save your energy, because there exists no force on Earth that can change my mind on this. Rap fucking sucks. The scene would have been infinitely better off if they’d gotten the composer to write something for it instead. End of story.

    Hmmm…now, it appears I’ve little else to write about. The ending was rather formulaic, but the credits start rolling before it gets too saccharine. If this had been a Hong Kong production, I suspect Bridget’s character would have been killed off, leaving Jet to care for the kid on his own. Yeah, I just gave away the fact that a lead character DOESN’T die, but big deal. That’s par for the course in American action movies.

    See KOTD, but don’t buy the soundtrack album, or you will die.

    Numskull’s Rating: 7/10 (8/10 without that damn song fucking up the fight with blondie!!!)

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