Kiss of the Dragon Reviews
Being a vehicle for Asian martial arts star Jet Li and an American production marketed like a Hollywood film with such conventions, Kiss of the Dragon brings in three nationalities to go with its name. The entertainment value stemming from the experience depends on how much the viewer enjoys a good action film or can tolerate the cliche elements.
Essentially, Kiss of the Dragon embraces conventions of three cinematic cultures for better and for worse. It's one of those films where the plot has already figured out what it's doing and doesn't waste time trying to explain itself. This works out for better and for worse because it means that the film does not spend a lot of time messing around focused on its story, but at the same time it means that the general coherence of it all is rather ambiguous. There is already some kind of of sting operation investigation going on when the story begins, and the fact that it throws is straight into it without even a second to explain it is ridiculous. If you've seen enough action films then you'll pick up on the cliches and make a sense of what is happening from there, but it just reflects a narrative which is ultimately really slack. It ends up explaining itself later on, after the film has established its value on the basis of some solid action scenes. So I guess all things considered it isn't the worst, but the story doesn't boast any credibility which becomes clearer as the story unfolds and exposes more loose plotting, such as the pairing of Liu Siu-jian and Jessica Kamen which is built on pure coincidence. The one good thing that the story does is jnot try and develop a conventional romance between the two because it keeps the film from going into some conventional areas, even if it adheres so heavily to others. But still, the story finds other ways to be ridiculous. Viewers likely to enjoy Kiss of the Dragon are not people seeking a groundbreaking narrative but simply an action guilty pleasure, and when it throws viewers into what is essentially the middle of some kind of crime thriller story, it reinforces this notion. What doesn't make sense is the fact that later on it begins to pretend that the story actually matters, bringing in a sentimental mother-daughter plot device to go against the backdrop of the corrupt French police force story which feels borrowed from Luc Besson's far superior film Leon: The Professional. In essence, the story in Kiss of the Dragon is generic, poorly structured and derivative all at once. The story is the ultimate downfall of the entire film, enough to the point that the cheesy dialogue didn't even bother me that much despite my awareness of just how artificial it all was.
The ridiculous plot leaves the importance resting on the action, and Kiss of the Dragon does a very solid job of delivering on that. Transcending my expectations, Kiss of the Dragon starts with solid action scenes but just keeps improving on them as the film goes on. The story takes protagonist Liu Siu-jian all across France and makes actor Jet Li fight in several different locations. He is able to embrace the changing environment on every occasion, managing to use the world around him to enhance his technique. Jet Li's fighting skills are the most major asset to the film but viewers are not the only ones who realize that because director Chris Nahon clearly does too. The visual style in Kiss of the Dragon is largely conventional and doesn't emphasize any sense of iconography in the imagery, but the cinematography captures the stunts very well and the editing ensures that it remains fast and tense without being incomprehensible. The editing actually improves as the choreography becomes more versatile, making Kiss of the Dragon a film which simply gets better as it goes on. The choreography goes from decent to good and then to just plain awesome, going above and beyond what I expected. The stunts are awesome, and there is even a touch of deadpan comedy that persists during them which lightens the mood of the experience.
The genuine mood of the entire film is great. Though the story has its tedious moments of taking itself too seriously, the fact that it rushes past sensibility means that it is a bit of a rush. This mood is retained by the soundtrack which uses a lot of energetic modern day American tunes to capture mainstream appeal with hip-hop riggsd that fit the atmospheric context of the action scenes very nicely.
But as anyone can tell, the fact that Kiss of the Dragon is an action film entirely revolves around its success as a vehicle for Jet Li.
Jet Li is remarkable in Kiss of the Dragon. Admittedly, his acting is not precisely flawless as there is still clearly much he has to learn about articulation of the English language. But the important in his character comes from his martial arts skills, anjd the film serves as an impressive vehicle for them. With a relentless skill for swift movement, Jet Li is able to catapault from one enemy to another with brute strength packed into the speed of his technique. His fight scenes all flow organically because the skills come from within, and his intense state of mind during all of these scenes prove that he says a lot more as an actor through his physcal acting than actually speaking. Jet Li is an intense action hero in Kiss of the Dragon, and his martial art skills are legitimately beyond belief at so many points. His talents are so beyond the standard of everything else in Kiss of the Dragon, so he justifies the existence of the film through single handily creating some magnificent action sequences that truly manage to boost his credibility in a film with a standard of storytelling as low as Chris Nahon's. Jet Li boasts remarkable fighting talents in Kiss of the Dragon, and it shows extensive potential for where his career will go next.
Bridget Fonda is also strong. Though her prior work in Luc Besson based material left little impression, her effort in Kiss of the Dragon is above and beyond The Assassin by far. Her character is a very generic archetype, the embodiment of both the damsel in distress and the femme fatale amalgamated into one. Still, with a sense of genuine drama about her, Bridget Fonda is able to stir up a sympathetic character in the part without neglecting a sporadic sense of lighthearted humour. Bridgette Fonda's basic effort in Kiss of the Dragon actually works to the story's benefit, so it proves to show off some of her better talents in such generic script.
Tcheky Karyo is also a nice touch as the antagonist, borrowing elements of Gary Oldman and Kenneth Branagh to create his own balanced sense of sophistication and sadism.
So Kiss of the Dragon has no idea what an original story is or how to sensibly structure a generic one, but its extensive use of Jet Li's amazing fight skills more than make up for that in the long run.
The action sequences are all very good and Li is in great form.
Kiss of the Dragon isn't what you might expect from a US/France co-produced martial arts film but it is true enough to asian action films with just enough influence from both the US and French to make it somewhat unique and well worth checking out.
An officer is sent to France to help resolve a recent mob incident; unfortunately, he has to work with a crooked cop that frames him for the crime. He quickly goes into hiding where he bumps into a prostitute that happens to be associated with the crooked cop also. They will need to work together if they hope to improve their situations.
"How long you plan on staying?"
"Not very long."
Chris Nahon, director of Empire of the Wolves, Blood the Last Vampire, and the upcoming Lady Bloodfight, delivers Kiss of the Dragon. The storyline for this picture is entertaining and well done. It is a bit darker than similar films in this genre from this era. The martial arts are pretty good but not outstanding. The acting is above average and the cast includes Jet LI, Bridgette Fonda, Tcheky Karyo, and Cyril Raffaelli.
"My boss is dying to meet you."
I came across this film on HBOGO and decided to watch it again for the first time in a long time. This was always an average action film that was a little darker and grittier than the Chan films being released from this era. I enjoy this film; it is far from a classic, but worth a viewing to fans of the genre.
"Thanks for the help, Johnny."
Fun stuff, give it a rental.