banner image

:: Kiss Of The Dragon

Kiss of the Dragon, the new film written by Jet Li (Lethal Weapon 4, Romeo Must Die, Shaolin Temple) and Luc Besson (The Professional, The Fifth Element, The Big Blue) is exactly what you would expect it to be- action packed.

Li, plays Liu Jian, China’s top secret agent, who travels to France to assist in the top level investigation of France’s biggest drug lord who has been importing drugs from China. However Liu’s journey takes a sharp turn for the worst. Soon after his arrival, he discovers that the man he has been sent to help, the head of the French investigation and the man he has been sent to capture, are one in the same; Richard played by Tchéky Karyo.

When Richard realises that Liu won’t be easily contained, he frames Liu for a murder he did not commit and informs the French and Chinese governments that Liu is actually the mastermind behind the operation. The French and Chinese governments negotiate Liu’s capture and in true-hangover from the Cold War style- hide vital information and motives from one another. Liu desperately tries to inform his government of the true state of affairs while on the run in a foreign country, with no money, no weapons and no friends and with a virtual army looking for him.

Jessica is played by Bridget Fonda (A Simple Plan, Jackie Brown, and Single White Female), who starred in the American version of Besson’s La Femme Nikita. She is a woman forced into prostitution by Richard and, kept in France by the fact that he has her daughter, also becomes entangled in the mess as Liu’s only alibi to a crime he did not commit. Liu’s mission then becomes, as in all good action movies, a near impossibility- to clear his name, catch the real baddy, get the hell out of France all while rescuing Jessica’s daughter from Richard’s clutches and Jessica from a life of drug addiction and prostitution. All in a day’s work for an action hero.

All this of course necessitates as many kung fu confrontations between Liu and his army of assailants that can be fitted into a two-hour film. Li’s trademark brand of fighting is on display in all its glory as he blends martial arts with an unusual partner- acupuncture. The fight scenes are interspersed with stunning backdrops of Paris and the inevitable jokes about the French.

The writers (Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen, and Jet Li) have obviously had some fun with the fight scenes- a martial arts lesson, a grenade, a snooker ball and a pair of chopsticks creating some of the more memorable moments. All in all, the fight scenes border more on horror than on action - a note for the weak stomached, blood, guts and body parts abound. But, as in many of these films, it is the one-on-one fight scenes that really stand out. They are artfully and humorously choreographed by Cory Yuen, a veteran Hong Kong action director and edited by Marco Cave with precision, in time to great music or more disconcertingly to no music at all. There is even the actual martial arts manoeuvre that has inspired the flying abilities of characters in such movies as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

The film features collaborations of cast and crew that have worked together for years or have some newfound connection. Co-writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen had known each other for ten years and worked together on The Fifth Element. Together they adapted the script from Li’s original storyline. As mentioned above, Bridget Fonda starred in the American version of Besson’s film La Femme Nikita that Tchéky Karyo starred in, along with another of Besson’s films, The Messenger. Additionally Li and Cory Yuen, the action director, have worked together numerous times.

Despite the filmmakers’ intention of creating “an action film that doesn’t bore you between fight scenes… we wanted a real story and relationship between Jet and Bridget’s characters”, they ultimately did not succeed. The film’s storyline is very flimsy and predictable and the relationship between Fonda and Li’s characters is never really fully developed. However action movie aficionados everywhere will love the film for its spectacular fight scenes and Li’s unique blend of action and humour, but mostly for the unveiling of just exactly what “The Kiss of the Dragon” is.

Screening on general release