Kiss of the Dragon

As great a martial artist as Jet Li is, he still cannot save a film from a bad script. Kiss of the Dragon is on par with most other Hong Kong action movies. This means lots of fighting, violence, mediocre to bad acting, and a convoluted plot. And since this is not a Hong Kong film, rap music replaces bad Canto-pop. In this movie, French people in France speak English with a French accent, even to each other. Chinese people in France speak English to each other instead of speaking Mandarin or Cantonese. It makes no sense, along with most of the rest of the movie. The one redeeming factor of Hong Kong movies is that the action is frenetic and choreographed enough, as it probably is here. It's too bad that the camera moves around so quickly and switches views so often that the screen is a jumble of images. It refuses to stay still on Li as he pummels his opponents. So even the martial arts lose out.

Li (Romeo Must Die, Lethal Weapon 4) is Liu Jian, China's best policeman. China sent him to France to help French police capture a drug smuggler. His contact, Jean-Pierre Richard (Tcheky Karyo, The Patriot, Saving Grace), a rogue policeman, is actually planning to frame Liu for the murders of the smugglers. Liu manages to escape with videotaped evidence of Richard's culpability, so Richard and what seems like the entire French police department go after Liu. Liu runs into Jessica (Bridget Fonda, Monkeybone, South of Heaven, Southwest of Hell), an American prostitute. Jessica is trying to regain custody of her infant daughter, and apparently the only way to do this is to hook. Jessica was there when Richard framed Liu, and she agrees to help Liu if he helps her.

The entire conspiracy angle plays way over the top. Kiss of the Dragon's story is by Li, with screenplay credits going to Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Messenger) and Robert Mark Kamen (The Fifth Element, A Walk in the Clouds). Logic is not always the most important thing in movies, but Li, Besson, Kamen, and director Chris Nahon apparently decided that logic was not necessary. Richard and company fire bullets everywhere, in plain view of the public, in an attempt to capture Liu. They care little for anybody who gets in the way, especially civilians. They are criminals, but they are still policemen. One would figure a little more discretion would be in order. Another hallmark of Hong Kong action movies is having one man go against impossibly uneven odds. At one point, Liu stumbles into a room full of policemen practicing martial arts. For no real reason, he begins fighting all of them, as opposed to, say, saying "oops" and walking out. They look at him and attack, even though they have no idea who he is.

Kiss of the Dragon is also missing motive. Why doe Richard have to frame Liu? Why not anybody else? He gives a reason near the beginning of the movie, but like everything else, it makes little sense. Consequently, Karyo plays like a raving lunatic for most of the film. Fonda is in the movie because she wanted the chance to work with Li. Well, she gets to work with Li, and really has nothing else to do except look scared and tired. There is surprisingly little emotion in her entire sub-plot about finding her daughter. Li's performance is standard for an action movie, which is not necessarily a good thing. Prior to the release of the movie, Li warned parents on his official website that Kiss of the Dragon was too violent for small children, and that they should not bring them to the theater. He should have been more inclusive.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 38 minutes, Rated R for strong violence, language, some sexuality, and some drug content.

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