Dragonfire

Superbly-crafted action sequences attempt to compensate for a weak storyline in the Jet Li martial arts caper.

A cop from Beijing lands in Paris and you can almost hear a voice say, "let the games begin". Never mind the plot (who needs one, anyway?), and as long as you have the screen exploding into superbly crafted action sequences every few minutes, you’re kept sufficiently entertained.

The Jet Li starrer, "Kiss Of The Dragon", directed by Chris Nahon, is everything you’d expect it to be. An action thriller to the core, it is set in contemporary France, is fast-paced and boasts of some slick editing. The storyline is predictably nothing to write home about - Inspector Liu (Jet Li) arrives in Paris on a mission and is pitted against a brutal adversary, Inspector Richard (Tcheky Karyo) who frames him and tries every trick in the book to eliminate him, because (no surprises here) he (Richard) is the French mastermind behind the very crime syndicate that Liu has been sent to dismantle.

Alone and on the run in a foreign city, Liu joins forces with the prostitute Jessica (Bridget Fonda), another victim of Richard’s tyranny, who has been forced into the flesh trade. She and Liu strike a bargain - Richard’s downfall for Jessica’s daughter’s safe return - and together this unlikely pair destroy Richard and his henchmen and break his near monopoly over the crime scene in Paris.

The tried and tested formula of good versus very evil, with good obviously emerging triumphant, is employed once again in "Kiss Of The Dragon". But like I’ve said before, you don’t expect to watch a Jet Li starrer and come out lauding the marvelous plot or sensitive characterization! The film is essentially for action fans and martial arts buffs. In this one, Li’s principal fighting aids are acupuncture needles, which evolve into a deadly weapon and play a role in the mysterious "kiss of the dragon" revealed at the film’s end.

The characters are well defined - the righteous cop, the twisted villain and the hapless, good-at-heart prostitute - and are backed up by appropriate performances. Jet Li is bankably efficient, letting his fists and needles do the talking most of the time, as is Karyo who however tends to overdo his too-evil-to-be-true character at times. Bridget Fonda delivers a fine performance, playing the traumatized hooker with many shades and layers effortlessly.

The dialogue is short, often witty, touched with a wry sense of humour as befits a film of this genre. The action sequences choreographed by Cory Yuen deserve a special mention - they are the highlights of the film, very well executed. After all, how can one expect any less of the action choreographer of "The Matrix"? Yuen scores yet again with this one.

All in all, definitely recommended for all those action buffs out there.

This article was first published on 10 Nov 2001.