“Kiss of the Dragon” is Jet Li’s third “international” film — movies that he is involved in without his usual Hong Kong crew. The movie, filmed exclusively in Paris, France, re-teams Li with his long-time contributor, Corey Yuen, who does all of the movie’s fight scenes. “KOD” has two things going for it: one, obviously, is Jet Li; the other thing is its incredible fight scenes, choreographed and filmed to look as close to “reality” as one can get. To be honest, with someone like Li, sometimes we can’t be sure if he’s being helped by wires or if he’s actually doing all of those amazing martial arts feat through sheer ability. Unlike, say, someone like Keanu Reeves, who you know without a shred of doubt that he’s being helped along. Li, on the other hand, is the action actor’s equivalent of Jim Carrey’s slapstick humor.
The movie’s plot isn’t very important. Suffice it to say, Li is a People’s Republic of China agent sent to Paris to help the French stop the flow of something bad (I assume it’s narcotics) that a top Chinese kingpin is about to send back to China. During the surveillance, the French cop, Richard, shows his true colors and kills the Chinese kingpin and then tries to off Li, the only Chinese agent in their midst. They fail, of course, and Li escapes, but not after having to quite literally fight his way down a hotel, taking out about a dozen guys along the way and single-handedly destroying most of the hotel. Li is framed by Richard and runs for his life.
Wounded and alone in a strange city, Li hides out at a restaurant that is also a PRC safehouse and tries to figure out what to do. Along the way, a hooker played by Bridget Fonda befriends Li, and a tape that can prove Li’s innocence surfaces. It seems Richard, the crooked Frenchman, lost the tape, which is now in Li’s possession.
The rest of the plot is quite incidental and unimportant. Needless to say, Li grows fond of the junkie-whore played by Fonda and the junkie-whore grows fond of Li since, according to her, Li is the only man who has done something nice for her since she arrived in Paris. (Makes me not want to visit Paris, but that’s besides the point.)
It isn’t long before the Chinese agent and the junkie-whore team up and fights their way to the junkie-whore’s daughter, presently being held by Richard. Of course, this isn’t easy when the bad guy is a crooked cop who seemingly controls every cop in the city and can blow up hotels, alleyways, tourist boats, and God knows what else, and never be called on it by his superiors.
When all is said and done, Li has proven his mettle to everyone in Paris and beaten to a bloody pulp nearly half of the men there. In the end, we find out what “Kiss of the Dragon” means, and it’s a doozy.
Chris Nahon (director) / Jet Li, Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen (screenplay)
CAST: Jet Li …. Liu Jian
Bridget Fonda …. Jessica
Tch’ky Karyo …. Inspector Richard