An action film that doesn’t Drag-on

Kiss of the Dragon

Directed by Chris Nahon

(Jet Li, Bridget Fonda, Tchéky

Karyo, Laurence Ashley)

Rated: PG13

The kiss of the dragon is a term used in acupuncture that refers to the placement of a pin at the base of the skull, resulting in the most lethal consequences. Kiss of the Dragon is an energetic endeavor by director Chris Nahon that results in smartly conceived, ass-kicking fun.

Jet Li is Liu Jiuan, China’s top government agent, sent to France to assist in an undercover stakeout. But when Richard (Tchéky Karyo), the French official whom Jiuan is sent to help, frames him, Jiuan is stuck in a world of distrust that he can’t quite understand. Alone in a foreign country and armed with a mastery of the martial arts and knowledge of acupuncture, Li’s character barely manages to stay one step ahead of French law, and does so in perfect form.

Based on a story by Jet Li, Kiss of the Dragon covets the martial arts not purely for the fast-paced action sequences but for the onscreen poetry they display. Fans finding themselves in the rut of martial arts action films will find delight in the addition of acupuncture as one of Jiuan’s talents. Li develops this aspect of the film, slowing down the action and proving that the mind is as strong a weapon as the fist.

Coming off of solid performances in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown and Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan, veteran actress Bridget Fonda is strangely disappointing in her role as Jessica, an American thrown into prostitution by Richard. On the up side, her upbeat, motor-mouth character is convincingly annoying, but becomes less convincing and merely annoying when her emotion is forcibly turned on.

Meanwhile, Li’s small stature and many talents carry the depth of the film. Li’s solemn stoicism leaves many doors open for humor, and the film fulfills these at every chance.

One such gag finds Li’s character strolling unknowingly into a crowded dojo in an attempt to find Richard’s office. The cheese factor of these twenty-some students turning on Jiuan is unavoidable in films such as this, but the straight-up fun of Kiss of the Dragon makes the smile on your face just as inevitable.

-M.G.