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Kiss of the Dragon Review

By Joe Lozito

"Kiss" Off


I can't imagine that "Kiss of the Dragon" will play well in France. The villain - a Paris Inspector played so over-the-top by Tcheky Karyo that it makes Gary Oldman's performance in "The Professional" look like a study in subtly - is the type of action movie bad guy that shoots into a crowd and picks off innocent bystanders without a second thought. But, of course, since he's a police inspector, he can get away with that, right? Do these filmmakers even read the papers?

It's no coincidence that "Kiss" was produced by Luc Besson, who helmed the "The Professional". Mr. Besson seems to have an oddly romantic vision of a slick, seedy Paris underground in which anything goes. Unfortunately, the bad guys in "Kiss" are so unbelievably brutal that the film is more of a long (and boring) cartoon than an action movie.

The film was conceived as a vehicle for Jet Li, whose extraordinary martial arts talents deserve something better than this (his 1994 "Fist of Legend" is still his masterpiece). Directed by first timer Chris Nahon, apparently after one-too-many sessions with Mtv, the action is edited to within an inch of its life. What could have been many exciting fight scenes blur into a mess of breaking glass and slow motion fists.

Mr. Li is not given the chance to show off his abilities until the last ten minutes, which feature a moderately exciting duel with two cartoonishly huge men and a clever scene in which Mr. Li accidentally happens upon a Paris police dojo. But Mr. Li doesn't need any camera trickery or jump-cutting. When is someone going to put Mr. Li in a film and keep the camera still while he does his thing?

Worse yet is the hooker with a heart of gold from North Dakota (no, really) played as a whining Goldilocks by Bridget Fonda. Admittedly the character seems to have been pulled from some stock screenwriter's folder, but Ms. Fonda plays her with two expressions: distraught crying and perky smiling. It's her scenes that could have used a little jump-cutting.

What did you think?

Movie title Kiss of the Dragon
Release year 2001
MPAA Rating R
Our rating
Summary Another Jet Li vehicle gone awry thanks to the Ritalin generation's need for quick Mtv-style editing. Will someone keep the camera steady while Mr. Li works, please?
View all articles by Joe Lozito
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