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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday, April 24, 2014 - Edition No 894 

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KISS OF THE DRAGON

SYNOPSIS:
Beijing detective Liu Jian (Jet Li) is sent to Paris to assist in a drug smuggling case. Double-crossed by the corrupt Inspector Jean-Pierre Richard (Tchéky Karyo) and framed for murder, Liu becomes a fugitive. In the attempt to clear his name and expose Richard, Liu is helped by Richard's prostitute girlfriend Jessica (Bridget Fonda) whose daughter is being held captive by the crazed Richard.

If Bruce Lee hadn't died he may have starred in a film with this title. It's almost 30 years since the Hong Kong superman bowed out with Enter The Dragon so it's appropriate his approximate namesake Jet and only worthy successor (along with Jackie Chan) takes the lead in this fast and furious actioner. With a healthy budget and the guidance of co-writer/producer and Jet Lee fan Luc Besson, Kiss of the Dragon delivers right from the outset and doesn't stop until half of Paris has been destroyed and the streets are crowded with corpses. It's the old story: stranger in a strange land accused of a crime he didn't commit is pitted against a formidable villain. Li, who until the mid-90s had rarely ventured out of period epics, cuts just the right figure as crack Beijing cop Liu Jian. Awesome with fists and feet but not too cocky, he also handles the human side of things convincingly in scenes with Bridget Fonda, who scores well as the North Dakota farm girl who somehow wound up on dope and hooking for France's most corrupt policeman. But what we're really here for is mayhem and plenty of it - and we're not let down. What Li does with the red ball in the top pocket of a snooker table will leave you breathless, as will an extended fight scene ending in a hotel laundry chute and the use of acupuncture needles to cause death by blood rushing out of cranial cavities. This is a polished piece of action cinema, with Tchéky Karyo enjoyably over the top as the crooked cop to end them all who has an inexhaustible supply of imposing henchmen ready to be slaughtered by the agile man from Beijing. There's also a nice role for Bert Kwouk - Kato in the Pink Panther movies - as the old wise man Li is billetted with in Paris. Great action + good characters + simple but not stupid plot = top entertainment. Check it out.
Richard Kuipers

Set on the stunning backdrop of Paris, The Kiss of the Dragon is non stop, classy martial arts action with Jet Li at his fabulous best. Luc Besson has stamped his mark on the project that emanates from a story by Li himself. The story is entertaining enough, but it's essentially the execution and performances that make this a stand out. Using Paris not only as a backdrop but also as a key character is effective and unsettling, juxtapositioning the action with the solid history of the world's greatest landmarks. The scene in which the lobby of an elegant Paris hotel is destroyed is devastateing, while the confrontation on the famous Bateaux Mouches cruising the Seine, the Eiffel Tower majestically looming behind, is a spectacle you will never forget. The stunts are highly imaginative and there is barely time to take a breath. Craig Armstrong's divinely eclectic score never lets up, compounding the anticipation and thrills. Li is superb: beyond his extraordinary martial arts skills, he projects a complex character whose 'best of the best' expertise in his field does not extend to handling women. Bridget Fonda's prostitute junkie Jessica is heartbreakingly credible, while Tchéky Karyo's villainous cop, Richard, is easy to loathe. Richard is surrounded by a team of massive thugs with pecs bigger than the Arc de Triomphe, mon dieu! There's plenty of violence, and I must admit I did look away a couple of times as necks cracked and some bad ‘uns came to a rather gruesome end. But there's a good balance of action, drama, psychology and humour. The significance of the beguiling title isn't revealed until the end, when the acupuncture needles Li carries in a bracelet around his wrist reveal their true impact. Pulsating and compelling action Jet Li-style in Paris – what more could you want!
Louise Keller



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

KISS OF THE DRAGON (MA)
(FRANCE/US)

CAST: Jet Li, Bridget Fonda, Tchéky Karyo, Laurence Ashley

DIRECTOR: Chris Nahon

PRODUCER: Luc Besson, Steve Chasman, Jet Li, Happy Walters

SCRIPT: Jet Li (story), Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen (screenplay)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Thierry Arbogast

EDITOR: Marco Cavé

MUSIC: Craig Armstrong

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jacques Bufnoir

RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 11, 2001







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