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Kiss of the Dragon -- UMD Movie Review

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Kiss of the Dragon was Jet Li's third North American movie, following Romeo Must Die, and Lethal Weapon 4. Jet Li plays a Chinese police officer who is sent to France to help the French police capture a drug lord, but the head of the French investigation kills the drug lord and frames Li, who manages to escape. While in hiding, Li's character befriends a hooker who unbeknownst to him, witnessed the drug lord's killing. For whatever reason, the two work together to clear Li's name, bring the real killer to light, and rescue Fonda's daughter.

The movie's plot is pretty simple, and never challenges you to think, for fear of you getting distracted from the many fight scenes. Bridget Fonda absolutely mails in her performance - she's truly painful to watch. Being that she's a hooker with a heroin addiction, it's not really clear why we'd be rooting for her to get her daughter back, so her character never really had a chance anyways.

Li's not a tremendous actor, but he does a good job of being likeable, which is about all he needs to do in the film. I'm not a martial arts connoisseur, but the fight scenes weren't bad, though they were far from groundbreaking. The highlight of the flick is the fight scene on the Thames river, aboard a tourist boat with Paris as a backdrop. The final confrontation is rather anti-climatic, which fits in with the rest of the movie.

Like many action movies, Kiss of the Dragon was shot in scope format, so it's cropped to fit the PSP's screen. Most of the time this isn't an issue, but during fight scenes you can't help but feel like the camera is zoomed in a little too close because of the formatting. Other than that the transfer is very good, considering this wasn't a big-budget film and it came out four years ago.

Kiss of the Dragon features both English and Spanish audio tracks. The stereo mix lacks punch, so you never get the feeling of "being there" like you do with a strong digital surround track. You can't blame the PSP for this, but if you're expecting some great audio, you're going to be slightly let down. Like the rest of the movie, the music in the soundtrack's nothing to write home about. It's a smattering of different genres that's not horrible, but you're not going to be rushing out and buying it on CD after you're done.

There's a brief featurette with the film's marital arts choreographer Cory Yuen. If you've ever seen someone break down how they did a fight scene, you can just skip right over this, but if you haven't, then it's worth a look. A robust commentary track features, Jet Li, Bridget Fonda, and the director, Chris Nahon. Li's not exactly rocking a whole lot of English here, so he's not very interesting, but he's about 40 times more entertaining than Fonda who drones on and on in her most bored sounding voice.

Final Thought(s)
Kiss of the Dragon is a great movie to watch when you're sitting around on a Saturday and catch it on TV while flipping through the channels. It is not, however, a classic in any sense of the word, and since you can get it on DVD for under $14 new, it's tough to recommend as a purchase on UMD.

Trivia: The tunnel where Jet Li is ambushed by the French Police is Pont d'Alma in Paris - the same tunnel where Princess Diana died.

11/22/2005 Aaron Thomas

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