Kiss of the Dragon

Bomb Rating: 

It's been a long, long time since I've seen such a strong candidate for the Mr. Cranky nuclear bomb rating, and "Kiss of the Dragon" came within Eszterhausian closeness to it. However, at one point in the movie, Jet Li pile-drives a big blond guy into the ground and snaps his neck -- and I felt a little spot in my heart defrost just slightly. As such, I have elected to go with the still monumentally-bad "dynamite" rating.

Nuclear bomb or no, I wanted to bludgeon myself into sweet, sweet unconsciousness while watching this horrifically pathetic excuse for a martial arts movie. The story is so full of clichés and logical mishaps that director Chris Nahon, Jet Li and screenwriter Luc Besson could have achieved a better result by scavenging failed literary endeavors from kindergarten trash bins. Unbelievably, Jet Li gets a story credit in this film. Here's an idea for Jet: Just hit people, and hit them hard. You might wish to consider starting with Nahon and Besson, and perhaps some of their legion of crack-addled chimpanzee ghostwriters.

My only guess about the origin of this story is that Jet Li was traveling in France and some French official called him a midget or something. I'm sure the French police have their problems, but this movie portrays them as a street gang. At the heart of the problem is France's most decorated cop, Jean-Pierre Richard (Tcheky Karyo). Liu Jian comes over from China to help out Jean-Pierre and is promptly framed and chased about Paris. Jean-Pierre is such a rogue that while chasing Liu Jian (Jet Li), he's able to shoot and kill innocent motorists and nobody files a report. Right. Even the LAPD can't get away with that.

This in itself would be a perfectly passable story if only Jet Li would stick to his strengths and beat the living crap out of everybody he meets. Instead, Li bumps in to Jessica (Bridget Fonda) and the story takes a turn that would cause any writing teachers in the audience to go apoplectic with rage. Jessica is -- I kid you not -- a hooker with a heart of gold who's in the business only because Jean-Pierre is holding her daughter hostage. Naturally, the otherwise detached Liu Jian suddenly finds meaning in his life and decides to save Jessica's daughter, in case Jean-Pierre's attempts to kill him weren't reason enough to get motivated.

Though there is a litany of stupid things in this film, here are the two most incompetent: In an effort to set Jean-Pierre up, Jessica goes to him and explains that Liu Jian is in "a restaurant." She doesn't say "Le Traviata" or "Le Pizza Hut"; she just says "a restaurant". Apparently there is only one restaurant in all of Paris, because Jean-Pierre and the boys jump in the car and speed right to it. The second stupid thing is Liu Jian's use of little acupuncture needles to do everything from immobilize guys to cause them to bleed out of every pore in their bodies. Liu Jian just sticks them with a little needle and it's all over. Why he even bothers with conventional martial arts is anybody's guess.

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