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Kiss of the Dragon

KISS of the Dragon -or KOD as the advertising would have it- is the latest high-octane, high-kicking vehicle for martial arts superstar Jet Li.

Kiss of the Dragon

KISS of the Dragon -or KOD as the advertising would have it- is the latest high-octane, high-kicking vehicle for martial arts superstar Jet Li.

In a spin on the 'innocent abroad' plot - or maybe that should be not so innocent in this case- Li plays Liu Jiuan, a Chinese supercop brought over to Paris to assist the French police shut down a drug trafficking operation between China and France.

A Chinese drug dealer is in Paris to meet the 'French connection' - the plan is to capture the meeting on video in order to smash the operation.

Arriving in a grotty and sinister-looking Paris, Liu is introduced to his French counterpart, Richard (Tchéky Karyo), who is in the process of beating a man to death with his bare hands, he further endears himself to Liu by acting the racist, by insisting on calling him John.

However, things go spectacularly pear-shaped after the dealer picks up an Amazonian-looking hooker and ends up on the sticky end of a rather sharp stiletto knife.

Although he stops the hooker, he is unable to stop Richard from finishing the dealer off with Liu's own gun.

The situation is a set-up, Richard is the French connection and Li is the patsy chosen to take the fall.

He is forced to run for his life as just about every police official in Paris turns out to be on Richard's pay-roll.

He is thrown together with Jessica, (Bridget Fonda), an American woman from a small mid-western town who Richard has hooked on drugs and forced into prostitution. The ill-matched duo are forced to play a deadly game of cat and mouse as they are chased all over the city.

But Richard and his Teutonic side-kicks have miscalculated as the diminutive dynamo refuses to play along. He is also more than a little bit miffed, as they are about to find out.

KOD marks the cinematic directorial debut of Chris Nahon and his background in commercials and video can be clearly seen.

The imagery is slick, bold and stylish, as Paris becomes a hyper-real world of shady deals and hidden danger, populated by an underworld of criminals, whores and pimps.

However, Nahon's MTV-like soundtrack is, at times, jarringly annoying. Fight scenes accompanied by irritatingly overblown rap music which drowns out every other source of background noise and dialogue.

If you can ignore the soundtrack the fight scenes are, at times, breathtaking and are given a more realistic edge by not using wire or OTT stunt work.

Li is a competent action hero, and it is easy to see why he has been so successful on the Hong Kong scene. He is graceful, good-looking and despite his apparent quietness, has a very strong on-screen presence.

Although he may lack something in stature there is no doubting Li's ability and skill as he blasts his way through both the villains and the entire Paris police force, with just his hands, feet and his trusty acupuncture kit.

The supporting cast are adequate, although Bridget Fonda is shamefully underused in a two-dimensional role of the tart-with-the-heart who turns out to be a devoted mother.

Karyo is alarmingly out of control and spends most of the film rampaging around Paris shooting people and chewing scenery as if it were popcorn. He makes Gary Oldman's psycho cop in 'Leon' look tame.

As a visual spectacle the film is enjoyable as well as downright silly in places. Gun battles are fought on the streets of Paris in broad daylight with impunity, the unarmed Li takes out a roomful of policemen armed with truncheons without a scratch and cops very obviously murder people in crowded areas without fear of consequences.

The action is bloody, swift and visceral, but be warned the often extreme level of stylised violence won't be to everybody's taste.

The pace of the film is disjointed and the story suffers in the hackneyed over-emotional scenes in-between fights.

The thing that really lets KOD down is the absolutely awful script and shallow story by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen which gives paper thin a whole new meaning.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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