Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema, the weekly feature with that certain je ne sais quoi. No, wait, je sais afterall! That quoi is the nostril singing aroma of fried foods and stale Funyuns. If that’s what you smell too, then you’re in the right place.
With the eyes of the film world on France for the annual wine festival armpit hair growing festival Nazi joke festival Cannes Film Festival, we here at Junkfood Cinema decided to set our sights on that classy nation as well. And by “we” I mean I, and by “decided” I mean your regular host, the Duke of Salisbury, is passed out on the floor again. He says it’s another diabetic coma, but I know he’s just faking it. Besides, we all know that diabetes is just a lie the vegans made up to keep us away from things that taste good. As always, I’ve selected a film of somewhat dubious quality but high entertainment value. I’ll begin by smashing it to bits and then taking the bits and smashing those into smithereens, but then I’ll pick up the broken pieces and lovingly put it back together with wood glue and duct tape.
As if that weren’t enough, I’ll provide you with a delicious snack to stuff in your gaping maw, satisfying your cravings for bloodshed and trans-fatty hydrogenated oils. Anyway, France! They love food almost as much as we do, and, thanks in large part to guys like Jean-Pierre Melville and Luc Besson, they love their ass-kicking action cinema as well. So it is with great reverence for both film and culture that we follow Jet Li to the City of Lights in…
KISS OF THE DRAGON!
Buckle your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
What makes it bad?
Ahhh, 2001. Remember when Jet Li was a suitable leading man for a 20-30 million dollar film? He was making big waves in America coming off a nice turn in the underrated Lethal Weapon 4 and his first starring role in an English language film alongside Aaliyah in Romeo Must Die. That second title was a modest hit for Warner Brothers, drawing $55 million domestically, so Kiss of the Dragon followed quickly on its heels, with Fox at the reigns this time around. And while it didn’t bring home the bacon at the box office, it sure brought home the bacon in my heart. Or something like that.
Right from the start you know Kiss of the Dragon is going to be something special. The first shot is….bunnies! Adorable yes, that is until they pan to a dead bunny. And the best part is this HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE FILM IN ANY WAY. I shit you not, there’s no rhyme or reason behind this absurdly pretentious opening shot. Way to get things off on the right foot, guys!
This is a film about Chinese and French police working a case together on French soil. Magically, and conveniently, there is no need for translators, because everyone speaks English. Even the black cab driver who picks Jet Li up from the airport is humming English lyrics to himself.
This movie features not one but two songs by Mystikal. I’ll repeat that. This movie has TWO songs by Mystikal. One is at least the unfortunately recognizable “Shake Ya Ass.” The other was probably never meant to be heard by human ears. I was surprised to learn that Mystikal had recorded two songs, though I was also surprised to recall that Mystikal was a person who existed.
The film finally picks up steam after Jet Li is double-crossed and has to fight for his life while fleeing a hotel. That momentum and ass-kickery is almost completely derailed by the British pilot in the lobby. He spots Li on his way to the door, and pulls two crazy looking silver machine guns from his suitcase. These are the type of guns that Tommy Lee Jones would call “nickel-plated sissy” guns while insisting you get a Glock. But for some unfathomable reason, they decide to have the pilot glide through the air. It’s a medium shot, so we don’t see his legs as he chases after Li, but he moves almost exactly like RoboHitler from the later levels of Wolfenstein. If this had been made last year, I would have sworn he was actually riding a Segway. It is completely ridiculous with no explanation whatsoever for how that poor man lost the use of his legs.
The cast is certainly present for this film. Who thought Jet Li and Bridget Fonda would be a good match? They have as much on screen chemistry and sexual tension as can be found in your average geriatric center. Fonda in particular seems to have forgotten how to exude any sense of sexuality. She was at least mildly attractive in Jackie Brown, giving off that casual sex, surfer girl vibe. Here she is easily one of the least sexy hookers ever committed to film. Luckily our two leads are bolstered by a solid supporting cast, including Kao Kan from Temple of Doom and the villain from Bad Boys!
Despite the fact that Fonda is a key witness Li needs to be able to clear his name, the movie spends a good 65 minutes of its 98 minute runtime before it deems the characters worthy of figuring out that they were both at the hotel in the first big scene. Good pacing there. Not only that, Fonda gets angry at Li for not listening to her, saying that she told him Richard has her daughter. Problem is, the film never once shows her giving Li that information. Apparently Li is supposed to be a mind-reader.
For some reason, there’s an abundance of truly shitty digital slow motion effects. It grates on my every last nerve each time the picture stutters around trying to pretend to be slow. Not only that, but the effects are so bad, that coupled with poor editing choices it makes some of the fight scenes nigh incomprehensible, which is a travesty since the fight scenes are the only conceivable reason one could have for watching this film in the first place.
As you might expect, the dialogue is on par with a 7th grade school play. Here are some of my personal favorite lines:
“Diplomacy is dead.”
“Sometimes the best is the worst.”
“Everyone should be who they wanna be and do it with who they want to do it with.”
“Who’s Santa Claus?”
Unintentional comedy gold!
Why I love it!
Two words: Jet Li. He’s infinitely watchable and an immensely talented martial artist. Despite his heavily accented English, the man has undeniable screen presence. But let’s be honest, no one goes to a Jet Li movie to hear him talk. You go to watch him kick people’s teeth in. Have no fear, there’s plenty of ass-kicking on display here as Jet Li must have been all out of bubble gum.
Despite the truly awful CG on display, the shot where Jet Li kicks a billiard ball out of the corner pocket and bicycle kicks into a bad guy’s face is pretty awesome. It’s the type of stunt you figure Li might have actually been able to pull off practically which is why I’m more willing to forgive the bad effects. It helps the believability when you can imagine Li doing it with a real ball. Now whether or not he could actually hit the guy right between the eyes…
As if Jet Li couldn’t kick enough asses with just his fists, they also give him a hemp bracelet full of magic needles! Seriously, these things are incredible, they can pick handcuffs, put someone to sleep, or lock someone in place all with a single strategically placed needle. I’m fairly certain these needles can cure cancer, turn back time and probably control the MIR space station.
While the movie does kind of plod along with overextended talky bits, when it finally does get around to the big showdown, it doesn’t disappoint. Li calls Richard to announce that he’s going to storm the damn police station like the Bastille. Not only does this guy have the balls to single-handedly storm a police station but he has the audacity to call the guy and tell him he’s coming! The dude clearly has massive testicles made of brass. While he dispatches the minions fairly quickly, there’s a nice extended fight scene with the two main goons, brothers who look like poster children for the Aryan race. He finishes the first one off with a sweet piledriver that would make The Undertaker proud, while he manages to break the second one’s neck with a well-placed kick. Think about that though. He kicked the guy in the head so hard he broke his neck! Awesome.
Then it’s Richard’s time to die. The movie doesn’t disappoint as Li’s Mortal Kombat-style finishing move, the titular Kiss of the Dragon, results in a total fatality. He even gets to use one of those sweet magic needles! One needle to the back of the neck is all Li needs to cause all the blood to back up in Richard’s head until he starts bleeding from his eyes, nose and mouth. It’s pretty badass but as Li describes what will happen I couldn’t help thinking it sounded like one of the original descriptions for “to the pain” from The Princess Bride. Obviously it was discarded for not being sufficiently over-the-top but it works very well here as a fitting ending.
The fight scenes are all pretty enjoyable. There’s a nice laundry room sequence where Li uses hot irons to great effect. There are plenty of punches and kicks and magic needles put to good use. There’s even a sequence where Li is being chased by Richard’s goons through a series of huge tunnels Richard Kimble-style! There, that’s two Fugitive references. One for each Mystikal song.
OK, fine, one was a U.S. Marshalls reference.
Junkfood pairing: Shrimp Chips!
Has there been a more disgusting junkfood pairing? Chips that taste like shrimp? It’s like a mad science experiment gone bad. The worst part is in the movie the shrimp chips come in pink and blue in clear plastic bags….just like cotton candy. I cannot imagine a more disappointing bait and switch than to be expecting sugary delicious cotton candy and instead have your taste buds assaulted with chips that taste like shrimp.
Needless to say this is one junkfood pairing I won’t be partaking in myself, but you’re more than welcome to if you feel so inclined. I wish you the best of luck and may God have mercy on your soul.