Kiss Of The Dragon (2001)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 7/6/01
Producers: Jet Li, Luc Besson
Story: Jet Li
Screenplay: Luc Besson
Action Director: Corey Yuen Kwei
Cast: Jet Li, Bridget Fonda, Tcheky Karyo

Jet Li is a top Hong Kong cop who goes to Paris in order to assist an operation being run by a French police inspector named Richard (Tcheky Karyo with really bad facial hair). Only the tables turn and Jet gets framed for murder by the corrupt Richard. Then the entire film becomes a frantic flight from persecution as Jet desperately tries to escape the corrupt French police force and prove his innocence. Bridget Fonda plays the proverbial golden hearted whore, who was forced into prostitution and drug addiction by Richard in order to protect her young daughter. She and Jet team up to take Richard down, although she really has very little to do other than get smacked around a lot. After an escalating kung fu free-for-all in the traditional Hong Kong style, Jet finally gets his man and gives him the rather deadly "kiss of the dragon."

The film offers probably the most brutal and hard hitting martial arts action ever seen in an English speaking film, even though it's an entirely French production. Corey Yuen's action choreography is excellent, although the editing is frustrating and seriously detracts from the action. However, it certainly is an improvement over Jet Li's previous American effort, "Romeo Must Die" (2000), which was a complete embarrassment in the action department. Arguably the highlight of the film is when Jet accidentally stumbles into a dojo where a bunch of police officers are practicing Filipino stick fighting. In a sequence reminiscent of "Fist Of Legend" (1994), Jet singlehandedly takes out the entire gang without breaking a sweat or cracking a smile. Jet Li is his usual charming self, and his English is quite good. Unfortunately, he's the only one worth mentioning. Usually Tcheky Karyo adds a sense of class and credibility to the films he's in, but this time his psychotically violent character is absurd and uninteresting. In fact, he reminded me way too much of Gary Oldman's character from "The Professional" (1994), who had the same problem. (you can definitely see the Luc Besson influence in this film) And finally, it's a throw away role for Bridget Fonda, which is a shame (unless she enjoys playing junkie hookers). Overall, it basically feels like Luc Besson's take on the Hong Kong action genre, and as an action film, it satisfies. Just don't go into it looking for anything else.