Kiss of the Dragon (18)

Review by Jack Foley

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by director Nahon and stars Li and Fonda; Jet Li - Fighting Philosophy featurette; Cory Yuen - Action Academy featurette; Behind the scenes featurette; Police Gymnasium Fight - Martial Arts Demo; On the set action; Storyboard to scene comparison - the laundry chute; storyboard sequence - the orphanage; Action gallery production stills; Theatrical trailer; TV spots.

THE plot is non-existent, the script awful, but boy can Jet Li deliver on the action front. Kiss of the Dragon is a martial arts film, pure and simple; and fans of the genre will have a blast.

Co-written by Li and Leon director, Luc Besson, the movie is designed to showcase the talents of the spritely star, and finds Li's Chinese detective, Liu Jiuan, alone in Paris and framed for the murder of high-profile drug barons by Tcheky Karyo's corrupt French cop.

Enlisting the help of Bridget Fonda's reluctant prostitute, Li sets about wreaking havoc in spectacular style; laying waste to a hotel-full of baddies and a police station full of cops in two of the movie's highlights. Li first appeared before mainstream Hollywood audiences in Lethal Weapon 4, where his agility and sheer physical prowess elevated many of the proceedings (even though much of his better work failed to make the 15 certificate version which appeared in UK screens).

He then went on to star in the enjoyable, if under-stated, Romeo Must Die which again only briefly hinted at what he could do. Audiences could only guess at what the star was capable of if let off the leash. Thankfully, Kiss of the Dragon does just that. Plot-wise, the movie is just a thinly veiled excuse to string together a terrific sequence of action set pieces - but what sequences. Fast, furious and bone-crunchingly violent, these set pieces quickly erase the memory of a truly lame script and are likely to have action afficionados purring with glee.

I've heard Li described as "the Fred Astaire" of the martial arts genre and the compliment is not misplaced. He is, quite simply, breathtaking. Whether it's kicking a snooker ball from the pocket, and then at a villain's head while it's still in the air, or simply laying waste to a room full of officers in training, Li is a delight. He is the sole reason for seeing the movie and one is left to ponder how great an impact he could make given some truly decent material.

Struggling to keep pace are Fonda's hooker with a heart of gold (under-used but jovial) and Karyo's laughably OTT villain - although, to be fair, they don't stand a chance of competing. Li will next be seen fighting himself in The One before allegedly teaming uop with that other martial arts supremo, Jackie Chan (a prospect likely to have fans rubbing their hands with glee).

But until then, why not check out some of the best fight scenes choreographed since Crouching Tiger and The Matrix.