Kiss Of The Dragon

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Kiss Of The Dragon

Kiss Of The Dragon is the sort of movie where the most rudimentary plot description—Jet Li goes to Paris—should have been used as the title. Short on dragons and kissing, it does feature plenty of scenes in which Li wreaks havoc within spitting distance of famous Parisian landmarks. For some films, that would be more than enough. With an intensely charismatic presence to match his martial-arts skills, Li is an indisputable movie star, but none of his American movies seem to know how to take advantage of that fact. He seemed lost in the overstuffed cast of Lethal Weapon 4, and out of place in his first U.S.-produced starring vehicle, Romeo Must Die, which obscured his fight scenes with restless cutting and flashy special effects. In action, Li is a balletic fighting machine, his own best special effect. There's no reason to put his films together piecemeal, as if he were Steven Seagal. Kiss Of The Dragon offers only a marginal improvement over Romeo, both in its presentation of Li and in every other facet. A dour thriller adapted in part by Luc Besson from a story by Li, it stars the latter as a Chinese cop with a sleeveful of nifty acupuncture tricks, sent to aid a French investigation of a drug-smuggling ring. He encounters opposition in the form of a scenery-devouring Tchéky Karyo, who, as a corrupt cop, pusher, and pimp, reserves most of his abuse for reformed junkie prostitute Bridget Fonda. Emoting toward the balcony, Fonda's character seems to have wandered in from a Cassavetes film; her scenes with the tight-lipped Li are an interesting study in incompatible acting styles. First-time director Chris Nahon borrows the film's look from Ronin and shoots it as if attempting to throw in every trick he knows. But those tricks all look familiar, and they get especially tired after Nahon drags the bloody unpleasantness out far longer than he should. Someday, a Li film will confirm his stardom in America, but every time he makes another one like this, that day gets further and further away.

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