Starring: Jet Li, Bridget Fonda, Tcheky Karyo, Max Ryan
Rated: R (Extreme Violence)
Running Time: 84 Min.
In this martial arts action thriller, Jet Li plays Liu Jian, a Chinese law enforcement officer called to Paris to aid in a police sting operation. Liu Jian soon finds himself framed for murder, on the run, and in possession of the only evidence that can clear his name and expose the real killer.
What I enjoyed about this film, other than the required heavy dose of action and violence, was that the character of Officer Liu Jian was not the typical vengeful 'Supercop' hero most often associated with this type of movie. In contrast to that stereotype, Jet Li portrays Liu Jian as just an ordinary, hard working lawman who gets into very extraordinary trouble. However, Liu Jian does have some nifty, character-specific tricks up his sleeve. This is a cop who enjoys the subtle use of well placed acupuncture needles to incapacitate his enemies as much as he enjoys beating the hell out of them. Also, whenever the occassion warrants, he is not above simply blowing his foes away with the nearest firearm.
Director Chris Nahon handles the action with bloodthirty abandon, creating some very entertaining but far-fetched fight sequences that serve as the high points of the film. Equally unbelievable are the villians, who attempt to avoid arousing suspicion but do not hesitate to completely destroy the occassional hotel, boat or neighborhood to capture poor Liu Jian. The lowest points of the film feature Liu Jian's 'damsel in distress', played annoyingly by Bridget Fonda. Since Liu Jian is the mostly-silent type, it falls upon Fonda to give us the more important plot points. Unfortunately, she only manages to bore the audience with dialogue designed more for her own acting motivation than for advancing the story.
So, to sum up, Kiss of the Dragon has one of the most original Jet Li characters I've seen, but provides a somewhat silly cast of supporting characters to back him up. If you're already a fan of Jet Li, then this film is worth a look. Hopefully though, Officer Liu Jian will be resurrected for a future, better martial arts adventure.