Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Kiss Of The Dragon (2001)

Jet Li stars in this action movie that has a script co-written by Luc Besson, so you should know exactly what to expect. Yes, there's a fun, action-packed opener, a couple of good set-pieces throughout, and a decent finale. As for character development and nuance, those things are out the window. That doesn't matter when the focus is on Li kicking ass, but it's not so good during the non-action moments.

Li is a Chinese intelligence agent who travels to Paris to help out the police there. They're mounting an operation to catch a well-known criminal (Ric Young). Unfortunately for Li, it turns out that he's about to be set up by Inspector Richard (Tcheky Karyo), an officer who is more concerned with making money from drugs and prostitution than any real police work. Framed for a crime he didn't commit, Li soon finds himself a very wanted man. He does his best to lay low, but that can only last so long. Richard and co. should be worried, however, when he decides that it's time to fight back.

Chris Nahon is the director, but with this being his first time in the big chair for a feature he doesn't really show any unique style, or even any great potential for things to come (at the time of writing, this remains, arguably, his best film). The script, which has Robert Mark Kamen working with Besson to develop a story idea by Li, is perfunctory, at best. There are some nice moments with Li using needles to either help or hinder people, but everything else is predictable from start to finish.

Li is great in the main role, and he's enough to keep everything above average. Not only is he a fantastic martial artist, but he also does well in scenes that require him to show some sweetness and/or good humour. Karyo is a fun villain, always seconds away from exploding in a fit of rage, and he has at least two great henchmen available to help him out (Cyril Raffaelli and Didier Azoulay). Bridget Fonda has one of her lesser roles, playing a woman forced into prostitution and drug use, and there are small roles for Burt Kwouk, Paul Barrett, and Max Ryan, among others.

Fans seeking an easy action fix will find enough to enjoy here. The editing isn't perfect, by any means, but it's not as bad as it could be, and there are some good tunes accompanying the dynamic moves. Watching Li fight is immensely satisfying, and there are a couple of set-pieces here that at least try to take things a step beyond the normal, Americanised action moments. It won't make any Top 10 lists, but it's one that I've watched numerous times, and will undoubtedly watch again at some point.


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