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KISS OF THE DRAGON

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Jet Li, Bridget Fonda, Tcheky Karyo
Director: Chris Nahon
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 98 Minutes
Release Date: January 22, 2002

“Excuse me…I’m really sorry to interfere with your business, but I’d REALLY appreciate it if you don’t do that again.”

Film ***1/2

Since his import into the American movie market nearly four years ago in Lethal Weapon 4, martial arts sensation Jet Li has created a much impressive streak of action films, much like how Jackie Chan did following his first movie imports. Lethal 4’s success lead to Jet’s first Hollywood star vehicle with the 2000 release, Romeo Must Die. Jet followed in 2001with the recent sci-fi action flick The One, and the hard-edged, take no prisoners action pot-boiler Kiss of the Dragon, which I find to be the action star’s single best movie to date. Not that his other films were awful by comparison or for any reason, but Kiss of the Dragon gives its star the chance to not only perform what he does best, but at the same time, deliver a nicely tuned performance, something which is very rare in a martial arts-charged flick. Plus, at a time when a lot of action movies are going the safe route in order to garner a PG-13 rating, here at last is one that goes full throttle, holds nothing back, and throws in enough bloody, bone breaking scenes for two movies.

The film’s biggest strong point is its opening, which is extremely well staged and superb in its build up, as we are first introduced to Jet’s character, a smooth secret agent from China who has come to Paris to assist  French police inspector Richard (Tcheky Karyo) in the apprehension of a reputed Chinese drug lord. Not wanting to waste any time mispronouncing the agent’s Chinese name, he dubs him as “Johnny”. All turns ugly when their target is murdered very grisly in front of their eyes, and even uglier when Richard turns out to be the mastermind behind the murder, framing Johnny in the process. He then eludes the evil cop in a breathtaking sequence in a flaming elevator shaft, which also includes a game of hot potato with a hand grenade. Johnny’s only ally in discovering the dangerous clues of the murder is a prostitute (Bridget Fonda), who was actually placed at the scene of the crime as it occurred. She herself becomes personally involved in the danger around her since her daughter is soon placed in serious jeopardy when Richard and his thugs kidnap her. 

Those who have never experienced a Jet Li action extravaganza are in for a knockout treat with Kiss of the Dragon, as it contains some of the most impressive fight scenes I, for one, have ever seen him engage in. Needless to say, the fight scenes are a star of the movie, as well. Such jaw dropping scenes include the elevator shaft sequence mentioned earlier, as well as a gravity defying stunt involving the use of a pool ball, fight scenes with the most gargantuan of human males, including two blonde hair twins who give tag team fighting a new name. And in the final fight scene, we see what the kiss of the dragon actually is, and the result is so chilling it might make you cringe a little.

Kiss of the Dragon is a professionally done action film. Lavishly directed with high style by Chris Nahon, a protégé of famed French director Luc Besson, and remarkably performed by its energetic leading star, this is one hot ticket you should definitely take advantage of.

Video ****

As in their unbeatable tradition, Fox has turned up yet another knockout transfer with their release of Kiss of the Dragon. Picture quality is that of a hundred percent in terms of clearness, sharpness, and vibrant colorization. Every scene from opening to closing, no matter if in light setting or dark, turns up completely terrific in this sharply fashioned DVD presentation from one of the top DVD studios around.

Audio ****

Just what you’d expect from the folks at Fox, a loud, booming, and sharply done audio job on a superbly done action movie. Kiss of the Dragon is given a superior, and superb sound in its 5.1 digital presentation, with everything from explosions to kicks to fistfights to music pick up, etc. With this transfer, to match its knockout video job, Fox illustrates once again how they are one of the top DVD studios around. They pour everything they can into a release, and Kiss of the Dragon is definitive proof.

Features ****

Fox is keen on the extras as always with this loaded disc. First off is an intriguing commentary by Jet Li, Bridget Fonda, and director Chris Nahon, which both intriguing and humorous. Also included are four documentaries, including a documentary titled “Jet Li’s Fighting Philosophy” and the original five minute featurette. Featured as well are martial arts demos, storyboard to film comparisons, a trailer for this film as well as Behind Enemy Lines and Planet of the Apes. A wondrous package indeed.

Summary:

Kiss of the Dragon is a rare, top-quality action movie, as well as being the best American feature yet for Jet Li, out of the few movies for the states he has done thus far. A high recommendation for any die hard action fan.