Posted: 07/07/2001


Kiss of the Dragon


by Chris Wood

This DVD is available for purchase at

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“Are you here on business or pleasure?” an inspections officer in Paris asks Liu Jiuan, an exceptional Chinese government agent, played by Jet Li (Lethal Weapon 4, Romeo Must Die).

Jiuan pauses, and answers, “Pleasure.”

However, this seemingly routine trip, for the purpose of helping Richard, a dirty French Police Chief, in arresting a Chinese gangster, goes a rye when one of the two prostitutes, who lure the gangster up to a hotel room, starts stabbing him to death. The other has gotten sick from the whole ordeal and went into the bathroom. Seeing this displayed from the monitors, taping the entire fiasco, Jiuan rushes into the room and subdues the homicidal girl by placing a small needle, from a band on his wrist, in her neck, rendering her unconscious. It can only be assumed that Jiuan needs this gangster alive for testifying or other important information.

Richard, played by Tcheky Karyo (La Femme Nikita, The Patriot), then enters the room behind Jiuan and proceeds to shoot the gangster dead. Then he takes care of the one prostitute, who was taking acupuncture to another level. For both killings, he used Jiuan’s gun. But before he can bring the sight back up and finish the job by killing Jiuan, Li’s character has disappeared out the window. And furthermore, in his acrobatic, impressive escape, Jiuan has taken the only tape that shows Richard committing the two acts of murder. Everybody got that so far?

Kiss of the Dragon, directed by Chris Nahon, with this being his feature debut, is a story created by Li (who has starred in 25 Hong Kong flicks before making his first American showing in Lethal Weapon 4), but it was co-written and produced by Luc Besson (director of La Femme Nikita and The Professional), and runs one hour and 40 minutes. The stunts and fight choreography was done by Cory Yuen, who worked with Li on Lethal Weapon 4, and Li himself issued a public notice about the level of violence in this film.

As it turns out, Jiuan’s hide out, a back street in a dumpy part of Paris, strewn with hookers, just happens to be the beat where the other prostitute, who was in the bathroom at the time of the murders, hangs, looking for action. Jessica, played by Briget Fonda (Singles, Point of No Return) a strung out skanky hooker, who is originally from one of the Dakota’s, is stuck in this dirty underworld, forced to sell her body because Richard—all around no good bad guy, has her young daughter, which is why she does what she does.

In a chance encounter (Jessica had to pee), she wanders into the restaurant where Jiuan is hiding out, and shortly after they discover that they are both tied into the unpleasantness that occurred the night before.

The plot is relatively straightforward, so as not to distract from the incredible fight and chase sequences offered up by the fast and flexible Li. From a boat, going down the Seine, to a Metro station, to the restaurant where his character is laying low, bad news seems to just find him. And that bad news comes in the form of a gigantically muscular black boxer, myriads of bullets, and twin bleach-blond Arnold Schwarzenegger lookalikes who have no dialogue (they speak with their fists!).

Fonda’s role as the helpless Jessica was there so Li’s Jiuan could do right by her and help get back her daughter, while at the same time, clearing his name. Her character added a softer side to Jiuan, the loner, who has no family or love interest. Still, the background of the characters did lack substance. This type of movie may be what Li prefers, as he does not want to continue in a tradition of Hong Kong cinema. “For me, [Hong Kong films] have become too violent. I want to give a smart and positive image to martial arts, not this bloody fight for no reason image,” Li said to the Village Voice, July 22, 1997.

This movie also offered no rope and high-wire flying action, as seen in Romeo Must Die, and despite Li’s character having several opportunities to carry and use a gun, he actually never fires a bullet, relying on his hands and feet as the registered killers.

Karyo, who plays Richard, totally achieves the characters role of having the audience loath him as a maniacal psychopath, and it is also interesting to note that Fonda and Karyo have ties with Besson, as she played La Femme in the American version, Point of No Return.

Overall, this picture is a movie for guys who like movies, or for girls who like movies that guys who like them go to see (!). It has revenge, some great fighting and chase scenes.

Just to give you an idea, toward the end, Li’s character calls Richard and asks him to come to the window. He does, and Jiuan says, “Now I know where you are…I’m coming up!” and walks toward the Police Building. Cool, huh?

Chris Wood is not a syndicated film critic, but he plays one on TV.

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