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Kiss of the Dragon (R)
Twentieth Century Fox
Official Site
Director: Chris Nahon
Producer: Luc Besson, Jet Li, Steven Chasman, Happy Walters
Written by: Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen
Cast: Jet Li, Bridget Fonda, Tcheky Karyo

Rating: out of 5

For those who live only for action and couldn’t care less what happens between the fight scenes as long as the action is decent: Stop reading and go see KISS OF THE DRAGON. This review is for the rest of you.

In his first feature film, director Chris Nahon has the honor of working with one of the world’s foremost martial arts talents, Jet Li, in a story created by Li himself. Match that with producing by Luc Besson, himself a sometimes-great director and half of the screenwriting team, and what young director wouldn’t wet himself at the opportunity? Chris Nahon must have, and his embarrassment kept him from being able to do his job.

In a misguided attempt to make the periods between fight scenes less boring, Jet Li created a drama full of tension and let Luc Besson and company do the writing. I can only assume that it was originally written in French, sent to Hong Kong to be translated into Cantonese, and then sent to Beijing, where Mandarin speakers quickly worked out the English script. How else could dialogue so monumentally bad have gotten past the first draft? Every scene with Li and Fonda smacks of emotional apocalypse—the romance blossoms because it’s the only way to shut each other up.

You’re waiting for me to tell you that Li’s incredible speed and skill saved even this dog from wasting my time, but although Li does do a fine job killing off half the French police force, from ugly broken necks to the truly grotesque climax referred to in the film’s title, the action is unoriginal and uninspired. Scenes that in other movies might have had me cheering fall flat, and the final victory felt empty.

The saving grace of this movie might well be the Dollar Cinema and video rentals, though. Get a lot of friends and a lot of alcohol. Mix well. See KISS OF THE DRAGON, the wacky comedy. Films this bad have a future on the cult circuit.

—Reed Oliver

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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