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Kiss of the Dragon (2001, Jet Li, Bridget Fonda)

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Jet Li has rightly been touted as the heir to the mantle of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, with his martial arts skills and dominating on-screen presence. Having starred in top Asian action films, his breakthrough in the West came in Lethal Weapon 4 and Romeo Must Die , and Kiss of the Dragon followed (he has since starred in the crossover martial arts film Hero). Li plays Liu Jian, a top Chinese cop brought to Paris to help crack a narcotics ring headed by his compatriots. Within hours of his arrival, his top-level contact is dead, he’s suspected of the crime and his chief enemy is Inspector Jean-Pierre Richard (Tcheky Karyo), who’s in the pay of the narcotics gang. Hunted, and alone in a city where both the cops and the criminals want him dead and where he knows nobody, Jian makes an unlikely friend and ally: a prostitute called Jessica (Bridget Fonda). She is the plaything of Richard, who’s hooked her on drugs and kidnapped her daughter to keep her quiet, but she’s ready to fight back.

Although the film is, of course, filled with epic martial arts battles, like Chan, Li uses unusual props in his battles, from a billiard ball to a laundry chute, and the action is interspersed with genuinely touching scenes between Li and Fonda as each tries to understand and help the other. The film, directed by newcomer Chris Nahon, was championed by Luc Besson (who co-wrote the script and co-produced the film). Besson believes that a way forward for the French film industry against the onslaught of Hollywood is to fight fire with fire (as he did with The Fifth Element) and make films that will play in America. He succeeded to the extent that Li’s next major project is a starring role in the in-production Rogue.

production details
France – USA | 98 minutes | 2001

Director: Chris Nahon
Writers: Luc Besson, Jet Li

cast
Ric Young as Mister Big
Jet Li as Liu Jian
Max Ryan as Lupo
Bridget Fonda as Jessica Kamen
Tchéky Karyo as Insp. Richard
Burt Kwouk as Uncle Tai
Laurence Ashley as Aja
Cyril Raffaelli as Twin
Didier Azoulay as Twin
John Forgeham as Max
Paul Barrett as Pilot
Kentaro as Chen
Colin Prince as Lupo’s Assistant
Vincent Glo as Pluto
Vincent Wong as Minister Tang
Claude Brécourt as Concierge

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