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Kiss of the Dragon

Director:Chris Nahon
Writers:Luc Besson, Robert Kamen
20th Century Fox; R; 98 minutes
Release:7/01
Cast:Jet Li, Bridget Fonda, Tcheky Karyon

Successful foreign actors specializing in successful foreign genres should take special precautions upon entering Hollywood. Hong Kong martial arts hero Jet Li has had a particularly rough time: Romeo Must Die, Lethal Weapon 4, and now, Kiss of the Dragon.

Luc Besson co-produced and co-scripted the movie. He's a Frenchman famous for films that wobble between brilliance and unintelligibility (The Fifth Element, Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc). In Kiss of the Dragon Besson deals so many clichés that he seems to cannibalize his own movie. Li plays Li Jian, a Chinese officer sent to Paris to help capture a Chinese gangster. Corrupt cop Richard (Tcheky Karyon) has other plans; soon the martial arts master is framed for murder and on the run from most of Paris. He's got a videotape to prove his innocence and a troubled American prostitute (Bridget Fonda) to protect.

The fight scenes arrive quickly, in a reckless barrage of over-edited combat. Part of the reason Li fares so badly in American movies is that he lacks Jackie Chan's penchant for crowd-pleasing slapstick, and the films' producers lack a Hong Kong understanding of how to make violence graceful (at best) or cohesive (at least).


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