Kiss Of The Dragon
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted July 25, 2001
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The Movie:

"Kiss of the Dragon" will not be remembered long after its release, but it's one of those good, well-acted, beautifully stylish and intense thrillers that deserves to live in past its few weeks at the box office. Written by director Luc Besson ("Professional") and Robert Mark Kamen from an idea by actor Jet Li, the 25 million dollar picture is efficently directed by first timer Chris Nahon and goregously filmed by Besson's cinematographer Thierry Arbogast.

Jet Li is a star who has been massively popular in Asia, starring in a wealth of martial arts films and often amazing with his physical abilities. Yet, attempts to bring him to the American audience resulted in a rather limited role in "Lethal Weapon 4" and a rather weak film of his own, former cinematographer Andrej Bartowiak's "Romeo Must Die". In "Kiss", Li plays ace Hong Kong officer Liu Jiuan, who comes to France to assist inspector Richard (Tchéky Karyo), who promptly responds by framing Juian for a murder.

That's really about all the plot there is or really needs to be. The remainder of the movie has the two up against each other or in chase throughout the streets of Paris as Richard's henchmen stand up against Li's character, only to fail. There's nothing "enhanced" (digitally or otherwise) about any of the stunts in "Dragon" and that's quite enjoyable. It's just Li, doing some incredible hand-to-hand combat, including one scene where he believably takes on a group of training warriors who all carry nightsticks. The film delivers what is expected - it keeps the action sequences coming at a rapid rate and each scene is often bigger and more remarkably choreographed than the last.

The picture is again, also phenomenally filmed by cinematographer Thierry Arbogast, who is a master of the threatening low-angle shot that follows the hero or the villian as they come around the corner. He also gives the film a rather washed-out, gritty look that grounds the picture wonderfully, as well. The only real fault that I found with the picture was quite an annoying one at times - Li's character meets up with an American girl named Jessica (Bridget Fonda) who Richard has turned into a hooker and a prostitute (he's taken her daughter, as well). Mira Sorvino attempted a similar pairing with martial arts star Chow Yun-Fat for "The Replacement Killers" and it worked quite well. Fonda, on the other hand, either looks completely lost in the part or starts throwing a fit. A few scenes with the two have decent chemistry, but overall she's still wrong for the role.

The plot is fairly standard throughout "Kiss of the Dragon", but I thought it was more well thought-out than most of the films in the genre, as was the acceptable dialogue. But, with the above-average acting, elegant and stylish look and stellar action, "Kiss" certainly elevates itself above many of the action pictures that have been released in recent months. One gets the sense that Li is capable of even better, but for now, this will certainly do. Recommended.

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