Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Kung Fu Corner - Kiss of the Dragon review

Directed by Chris Nahon
Story by Jet Li
Written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Starring Jet Li, Bridget Fonda and Tchéky Karyo

Welcome to my first Kung Fu Corner review! From time to time I’ll be writing about a kung fu movie. I’ll try to diversify a bit with my choice of Kung Fu stars but expect a lot of Jackie Chan because he’s my favourite. Kiss of the Dragon is my first review quite simply because most of my dvds are packed away and this one was just sitting there. It’s my first time watching it.

As martial arts movies go, this one follows a very simply plot seen in many other kung fu movies. A Chinese police officer is sent to Paris to help a police officer there take down a heroin drug lord. Upon his arrival, our main character Liu Jian played by Jet Li, is framed by the French officer Jean-Pierre Richard played by Tchéky Karyo for the murder of the drug lord in question. The rest of the movie we see Johnny trying to take down Richard who as it turns out is the real drug lord. Along the way he becomes friends with Jessica (Bridget Fonda) who is coerced to work for Richard as a sex worker because he has her daughter in his custody.

Jet Li kick’s everybody’s ass through windows, into pavement and into walls. He’s little but his kung fu is mighty!

As a whole the action is good. There is a fight scene that happens early on in a hotel and Li fights off some henchmen with ironing boards and irons (he’s in the laundry room). This is essentially the only scene where he fights with props. Most of the fight scenes he uses his hands and feet as well as acupuncture needles which is this character’s trademark.

There are elements present in Kiss of the Dragon that are common to many martial arts movies other than the simply the plot (which is also commonly seen in many Hollywood action movies). There is a culture clash that is present although it seems very forced and portrayed quite negatively. In quite a few Jackie Chan movies the difference in cultures is played out in humorous ways but that’s not the case for this film. For example, Richard tells Jian to his face that he won’t bother learning how to properly pronounce his name and instead calls him Johnny. For the rest of the movie Li’s character is called Johnny. Strangely enough he’s credited simply as “Liu Jian” with no mention of Johnny. I thought this was a bit weird because I had no idea what Li’s character’s real name was until I read the credits. It wasn’t mentioned more than two or three times, tops.

Another common element is that the villain underestimates the Chinese officer. Of course Richard is a very bad person and we’re happy to see Li’s character prove him just how strong his kung fu (and acupuncture skills) are. I mention his acupuncture because Jian defeats Richard by giving him the Kiss of the Dragon. An acupuncture technique that is “very forbidden”. It consists of hitting a spot behind the neck which paralyses the victim. Once the needle is removed all the blood of the body rushes to the head and the victim bleeds out from all the orifices of his head. It’s pretty graphic and even though I think it’s kind of a lame way of killing someone in the movie it was set up by Jian’s nearly constant use of acupuncture needles throughout the film and Karyo acts it out well.

The best part of the movie is Jet Li’s final fight with Karyo’s henchmen twins. One of the twins is played by Cyril Raffaelli and I do not know who the other guy is. That doesn’t really matter since the fight takes place mostly between Li and Raffelli. It’s a very good fight. The choreography takes advantage of the setting and the actors are very, very quick and pretty darn brutal. Apparently there was a bit of CGI used because Raffaelli’s kicks were too quick for the camera! That’s crazy! There is almost no use of wires in Kiss of the Dragon. Jet Li wanted to make a movie in reaction to some fan complaining about the over use of wires in other Jet Li movies. Personally I’m not a very big fan of “wire fu” but it can and has been used well in the past. There seems to me that there was some use of wires in the final fight though when Raffaelli’s character is spinning in the air and Li grabs him.

All in all, Kiss of the Dragon uses an action movie plot we’ve all seen a dozen times before and makes a good kung fu film out of it. There aren’t as many martial arts fights as I would like but that’s because most of the henchmen used guns. The result is a movie with more a lot of action, some of it being kung fu. If you’re one of the people who complained about Jet Li’s use of wires in his previous films I’d give this a go. Fan of Jet Li would surely like this movie, too.

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