Review by Dustin Putman
1½ stars out of 4
Chris Nahon's Jet Li vehicle, "Kiss of the Dragon," makes the cardinal sin of
trying to persuade the viewer that it is more that it actually is. Setting
aside time to attempt character development and a deep emotional core, the
film, instead, flounders in desperately overwrought dialogue and one of the
most incomprehensible plots since 2000's "Battlefield Earth."
Jet Li stars as Liu Jiuan, a Beijing cop who has traveled to Paris to aid in
a police raid against a heroin smuggler. When the head of Paris' police
department, Richard (Tcheky Karyo), ends up murdering the suspect, as well as
a prostitute, in a hotel room and setting Liu up as the murderer, it is up to
Liu to escape suspicions and seek revenge on the crooked cops behind the
operation. Giving Liu an added reason to go after them, Liu meets Jessica
(Bridget Fonda), a mother-turned-drug-addict/hooker whose daughter is being
held hostage by Richard.
The motives behind what Richard, the archenemy, does throughout is both
muddled and never explained. For instance, why is he trying to frame Liu for
murder when he has just met him? And why does Richard insist that Jessica
must remain a prostitute or have her young daughter be killed? Furthermore,
why was Liu sought out in Paris from Beijing for a simple drug bust? Action
movies, especially those that work as an exciting thrill-ride, do not always
require stringent logic, but "Kiss of the Dragon" is so flawed on the story
level that it can't be taken seriously for even one moment.
As for the vital action and martial arts sequences, the best that can be said
about them is that they are well-choreographed, and often very violent and
bloody. Their innovation level is close to nil, however, and seldom exciting.
The thought of the very small Liu taking on a whole room full of martial arts
students, leaving all of them pounded to the floor but without a scratch on
himself, is ridiculous even for this genre of film.
Jet Li (2000's "Romeo Must Die") is adequate as the wronged Liu, but his
English isn't very good, and this bars him from being able to express his
character's feelings clearly. As a woman who simply wants her daughter back,
but has found herself stuck in a grimy life of prostitution and needles
shoved through her veins, Bridget Fonda (1999's "Lake Placid") is so much
better than this movie. It's actually a bit disheartening seeing the usually
very bright Fonda stuck in an unattractive role that has her saying the most
godawful dialogue this side of a cheesy '80s slasher flick. Rounding out the
three main players, Tcheky Karyo (2000's "The Patriot") grunts and narrows
his eyes on cue as the incumbently vicious Richard.
Ineptly directed by newcomer Chris Nahon and written by the usually reliable
Luc Besson (1994's "The Professional") and Robert Mark Kamen, "Kiss of the
Dragon" may pass as a minor divergence for hard-core action fans, but
everyone else should stay away. With a script that is a mess of cliches and
bad drama, and not one scene that has the ability to get your heart racing,
you have been officially warned.
Copyright © 2001 Dustin Putman