Kiss of the Dragon

Jul 11, 2001 at 12:00 am

Jet Li’s (Romeo Must Die) Chinese intelligence operative Liu Jian’s fists and feet fly like the blades of a kung fu blender set on liquidate, processing a Parisian rogues’ gallery of corrupt police inspector Jean-Pierre Richard’s (Tchéky Karyo, Saving Grace) hoodlums into so much karate-chopped meat. But even though our hero may have fists of steel and a jaw of iron, he has a heart of pure gold.

Bridget Fonda’s (Monkeybone) North Dakota farm girl gone wrong, Jessica, melts it. Reluctantly turning tricks in front of Liu Jian’s hideout, she notices Liu Jian attempting to stitch a wound, the minor aftermath of a narrow escape from Richard’s thugs — and his SWAT team. She has her own problems with Richard: He holds her kidnapped daughter in an orphanage and fixes Jessica on heroin in order to turn her out on the mean back streets of Paris. After she persuades Liu Jian into allowing her to sew him up, a run-in with her pimp, his enforcers and Richard’s right-hand henchman develops a body count. The two then realize they have something in common: their mutual enemy, Richard. Liu Jian becomes her chaste knight with flashing hands and feet vowing to liberate Jessica, her daughter and himself from his evil clutches. Liu Jian will use his unique weapons of choice, acupuncture needles, aimed at the most forbidden and lethal point called the Kiss of the Dragon.

Visually, Kiss of the Dragon falls on its own sword. First-time director Chris Nahon’s quick cuts chop up Jet Li’s championship-winning Wu Shu martial arts action almost beyond recognition. Only a fight scene pitting Liu Jian against a pair of snaky, blond-spiked twins comes close to successfully revealing his skills — and his rare, silent humor.

Fonda’s acting skills are wasted on her pathetic Jessica while Karyo does his best to stretch the villainous Richard beyond two dimensions. Kiss off Kiss of the Dragon.

E-mail James Keith La Croix at [email protected].