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Film / Kiss of the Dragon

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Kiss of the Dragon is a 2001 martial arts action film starring Jet Li, written by Luc Besson and directed by Chris Nahon.

Liu Jian (Li), a Chinese intelligence officer, comes to Paris to help the vice squad apprehend Chinese drug lord Mr. Big (Ric Young) and his unknown French connection. He joins forces with French police official Jean-Pierre Richard (Tchéky Karyo) in order to do it. Alas, it turns out that Richard is Big's connection, and that Richard is planning to murder Big. When Jian discovers, tries and fails to stop this, Richard frames him for the murder. Jian is able to escape with a tape that proves his innocence, but he loses it soon after. Just when it seems he has nowhere to turn, he meets Jessica (Bridget Fonda), a Hooker with a Heart of Gold whom Richard has forced into prostitution and heroin-addiction, and who was present at the site of Big's murder and thus can prove Jian's innocence. Alas, Richard also has Jessica's daughter under his thumb in an orphanage, and she refuses to help until Jian gets her. Jian sets off to do it, evading Richard's mooks and seeking to slay him at the same time.

Li made the film as a result of fans requesting more realistic fight scenes following Romeo Must Die. Consequently, only two scenes required CGI enhancement (the flames from the grenade explosion and the billiard ball after Li's character kicks it) and only one scene involved wire work (Cyril Raffaelli's 1 1/4 somersault, which he could do on his own, but which went too fast for the camera and therefore required wires to slow down).

Notably, Kiss of the Dragon was originally going to become the first R-rated film to stream on Disney+ in the United States, but the decision was reversed, instead streaming on Disney+ in Canada; that honor instead went to the trio of Deadpool, Logan, and Deadpool 2.

This film provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Jian was promoted five times and received several medals and recommendations for his work. He graduated at the top of the class and is a trained martial artist One-Man Army.
  • The Aggressive Drug Dealer: In yet another of his many loathful actions through the film, when Jessica (who has been forced into prostituion by Richard) tries to make a stand at one point and ask him to let her go and give her back her daughter, Richard wrestles her to his desk, holds her down, injects her with a fresh dose of cocaine, and tosses her out onto the street to continue her rounds.
  • Always Identical Twins: Averted. The twin brothers are incredibly similar, but one of them is slim and lean while the other is much taller and bigger. Actually, aside from the credits and casting names, they are never stated to be twin brothers, but in case they are not, they have a Strong Family Resemblance.
  • Asshole Victim: Mr. Big is an extremely nasty Triad leader and in a different film he would be Big Bad material. Instead, the plot quickly establishes Inspector Richard as the more dangerous criminal and Jian doesn't care about how Richard murdered the criminal he had been pursuing for a long time beyond the fact that Jian got framed for it.
    • Also Richard himself, after all the horrible things he's done, when Jian kills him with the technique in the title.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: During the fight with the twins, Liu figures the shorter one relies heavily on roundhouse and spinning kicks, and lures him into a narrow corridor full of tables, where his feet constantly get caught and leave him open to get hit more.
  • Ax-Crazy: Like Norman Stansfield before him, Inspector Richard is a volatile nutcase who frequently and readily loses his temper and isn't afraid to use violence to get what he wants.
  • Bad Boss: Inspector Richard. No need to make a long list what he's done, so here's a short version: Other than being the head of local Interpol branch, and running a prostitution ring, he makes sure to keep them addicted and keeps the daughter of one in an orphanage to prevent her from leaving. He gets his own people killed to protect himself. And those he doesn't kill, he blackmails, and he sets up murders.
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Inspector Richard's whole department seems to be either in on his own schemes, or too incompetent to realize he's running a drug and prostitution ring right out of their office.
    • However Jian's own force (intelligence agents with police authority) seems to be the opposite, committed to upholding the law and following law enforcement procedures, and the Chinese liaisons sent to investigate Richard's accusations after he frames Jian aren't fooled by Richard's claims.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: Partially used and partially subverted, this is true of Richard and probably much of the division he leads, but not of Jian's force back in China, who behave professionally and follow proper guidelines.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Jian is not one who minces words much, but he retaliates brutally against those who try to kill him or those he cares about.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • After Richard killed the drug boss and the prostitute that stabbed the drug boss, he tries to a frame Jian by using Jian's own gun (with his fingerprints) and setting it up like Jian was a Dirty Cop. Jian's boss, Chen, doesn't believe it for a second.
    • When asked by Jessica what Jian's work is, he responds that he's selling food. She then mentions that this food must be extremely dangerous, considering the deep cut in his arm that she had to sew just a moment earlier.
  • Bring It: Played with. After the smaller brother goads Jian into attacking with this, to his advantage, Jian turns it back on him to gain the upper hand. The fight scene grinds to a halt as both fighters realize they're better off where they are. The result could be subtitled "Bring it!" "No, you bring it!" "No, you!" The brother eventually gives in and gets his ass kicked, so he does it again to get Jian to fight on his terms once more (and still loses).
  • Celibate Hero: Jian, to the point that Jessica wonders if he is gay, much to his annoyance.
  • Chekhov's Gun: When Jian is being searched early in the film for weapons being carried, he is found to have a bunch of acupuncture needles around his wrist, which are ignored as Jian is supposed to be an expert in acupuncture for healing. It turns out the needles are weapons for him, and he uses one of them in the climactic fight against Richard to save Jessica's young daughter Isabel, using the technique in the film's title.
  • Clear My Name: Richard frames Jian for the murder of the man he had been sent to arrest. The rest of the film is Jian trying to expose Richard.
  • Combat Pragmatist: As Jian can't use his gun in most fights, he resorts to his fists and anything else he can find, from an iron to a billiard ball to the head.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Richard suffers from one. Jian in the finale hits him with a needle at a pressure point, the kiss of the dragon, to cause an aneurysm. Richard dies a painful death with blood shooting from his mouth, eyes, ears and nose.
    • This goes to couple of Richard mooks who met painful fate as well.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: The titular "Kiss of the Dragon" is mentioned by Jian to be one of these in his To the Pain Info Dump right after subjecting Richard to it. On the other hand, couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
  • Dirty Cop: Richard, the twin brothers and probably his entire department. He's got a Hookers and Blow operation on the side.
  • The Dragon: Two of them, a pair of blonde twins, who give Jian his last big martial arts fight before taking on Richard.
  • Due to the Dead: After Tai was gunned down, Jian brings his corpse to a church and he holds a funeral for him.
  • Entendre Failure: Jessica offers a favor to Jian for being kind to her, but sex isn't something that registers for him.
  • Fatal Flaw: According to "Uncle" Tai, four agents came to Paris before Jian. They all died because they were too prideful and acted too rashly.
  • Giant Mook: A Scary Black Man henchman tries to smush Jian after he attacks a pimp who was abusing Jessica. The larger of the two brothers at the police station also qualifies.
  • Groin Attack:
    • Blond Giant Mook. Twice.
    • A mook gets shot in the junk during the boat scene.
  • Guns Akimbo: The member of Richard's gang posing as an airline pilot whips out two submachine guns and lays waste to the hotel lobby as Jian tries to make his escape.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Inspector Richard screams profanities at people in practically every scene, so much so that one wonders how he never blows his cover.
  • Hate Sink: Richard with a long line of awful things that firmly establish him as a nasty psychopath. In addition to frequent murders, public outbursts, framing Jian, forcing Jessica into prostitution, abducting and threatening a little girl (Jessica's pre-teen daughter Isabel), addicting Jessica to heroin, using people under his command as human shields and basically running an illegal drug trade, he does all this by abusing the public trust in a position as law enforcement.
  • Hidden Supplies: At one point, Liu Jian has to retrieve weapons and other supplies that his Chinese intelligence unit hid in storage lockers in a train station. When two cops standing by the lockers see what is in them, he immobilizes them with his kung fu acupuncture.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • After Jian managed to piss Richard off with a kick in the face, Richard responds by trying to blow Jian up with a hand grenade. Jian catches the grenade and then throws it right back into the sleeve of a mook, which almost kills Richard, if he hadn't reacted in time.
    • The smaller brother's attempt to kick Jian with a backflip ends up being his death sentence, as Jian catches his legs and causes a Neck Snap.
  • Hookers and Blow: The hookers brought to Big's hotel room bring some blow with them.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Jessica was forced into prostitution. She is really just an innocent woman that was dragged into a shitty life.
  • Hostage for MacGuffin: Defied by Jian. Richard tries to trade Jessica's daughter for the tapes of a murder. Jian has already turned the tapes in, and is now going to get the daughter.
  • Hostage Situation: Richard tries to play the card again face to face, and it's still defied. Jian points out that in the time it takes Richard to kill the girl, Jian will kill him. Richard instead elects to shoot Jian, which goes even worse (if he had shot the girl, he'd at least have spite to his name, all he managed instead was a minor wound).
  • I Have Your Wife: Richard holds the daughter hostage.
  • Implacable Man: The taller of the twins frequently shrugs off attacks.
  • Improvised Weapon:
    • Among other things, Jian beats up mooks with a scooter, a broom, and with dual irons.
    • He also kills a guy with chopsticks to the throat.
  • Invincible Hero: Jian takes out the entire police station and by the end of it only has a cut-up hand from some glass and a bullet in his shoulder, which only happened after he had taken out everyone else.
  • It Only Works Once: During their fight, Jian grabs the smaller brother's foot and tries to throw him onto his back. The smaller brother instead backflips and kicks Jian in the chest. When they wind up in the same position, Jian rushes forward and grabs the brother's legs, snapping his neck in a pro wrestling-inspired ganso bomb when he hits the ground.
  • Karmic Death: The Neck Snap-happy brothers both die by the same.
  • Kick the Dog: Richard gets several of these, including having his thugs working some poor guy over when Jian walks in to do business with him, murdering Big and framing Jian for it, and forcibly injecting Jessica with her "fix" of heroin before throwing her back on the street when she asks him to free her daughter so she can get out of the business.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Jian is one to Jessica. He (at first reluctantly) offered her shelter, food, protected her from her abusive pimp and promised to save her and her daughter. She offers him her body in return, but Jian is a Celibate Hero. Any of her advances towards him are very gently rejected.
  • Lame Comeback: Richard's comeback to the Title Drop is "kiss my ass", which would be lame even if he weren't completely paralyzed. Jian just smiles at his lame comeback.
  • Lame Last Words: After everything he has roared out throughout the film with the bombastic aplomb Tchéky Karyo can wield, the last thing Richard says (as he is beginning to succumb to the Kiss of the Dragon pressure point) is "kiss my ass". And it takes him a lot of effort to whisper it out. Jian shrugs and leaves him to his fate.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Jian suffers two major wounds; once his arm is sliced open and once he is shot in the shoulder. He doesn't really show much of a reaction in either case.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Richard gives no attempt at pronouncing Jian's name and just refers to him as Johnny. At the end, Jian's final words to Richard are, "My name is not Johnny."
  • Married to the Job: Jian doesn't have any relationships, he's simply focused on his job.
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: Apparently, in Richard's world, the appropriate response to getting your nose broken is to throw a grenade at the one responsible.
  • Mook Chivalry: Averted, as the second wave of martial artists in the police dojo actually try to attack Liu Jian at once. However, after he tosses one of the first wave against the group, their formation is broken and he curbstomps his way among them in the trope's old iteration.
  • Neck Snap: The brothers are fond of this, with the bigger one Neck Lifting the victim so the smaller one can jump up and break their neck with a hook kick. Unsurprisingly, both die this way.
  • No Name Given: According to promotional materials, the twins' names are Victor (the smaller) and Igor (the bigger), but only the latter's gets mentioned on the film, and only once.
  • The Not-Love Interest: There is a small amount of UST between Jessica and Jian, but he doesn't seem interested in her for the most part.
  • Obviously Evil: Inspector Richard really makes no damn attempt to look like a good guy in the few minutes of screen time he is pretending to be one. When Jian first meets him, you knew he was the Big Bad.
  • Oh, Crap!: Jian gets his first when he opens the train station locker with supplies smuggled in by his government should he need them on his mission.... right in front of two police officers.
    • Jian gets another one when he barricades a door in the police station and turns around to see he has sealed himself inside a dojo full of karate black belts with sparring sticks.
    • Richard gets his when he realizes Jian is coming for him at the police station.
  • One-Man Army: Jian plows through an entire police station, which happens to have a hand-to-hand combat course in session.
  • Out with a Bang: A killer prostitute (specifically an assassin targeting a specific victim) asks her victim things like "Do you want to go to heaven?" and "Are you ready to go to heaven?" as she's riding him to (his) orgasm. He asks her to take him there, in no frame of mind to notice just how long and sharp the hairpins she's holding are. Mortality ensues.
  • Right-Hand Cat: Richard has a pet turtle that he keeps in a drawer in his desk.
  • Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: Averted with Big. He's painted as a pretty ruthless Triad big-shot, but Richard shows himself to be the more vile bastard very early in the film, taking over as the real Big Bad.
  • Sequential Symptom Syndrome: Jian uses kung fu acupuncture to make a guy's head explode. He describes the physical symptoms as the man stands paralyzed.
  • Silent Antagonist: Aside from some grunts (and roars, in the bigger one's case), the twin brothers never talk.
  • Soft Glass: Zig-zagged. The brothers are shown to kick their way through the glass with reckless abandon (likely thanks to wear practical boots), but both Jian and the bigger brother slice up their hands when they accidentally grab surfaces covered in it.
  • Stealth Pun: The Big Bad, who basically goes out of his way to be an asshole at every opportunity, is named Inspector Richard. No one makes the obvious connection.
  • Swiss-Army Weapon: Jian's needles are used for all sorts of things; from putting someone to sleep to getting off handcuffs to causing an aneurysm with the kiss of the dragon.
  • Tranquil Fury: After Jessica's daughter was abducted and held hostage by Richard, Jian walks into the police station alone to free her and kill Richard.
  • Trivial Title: The "Kiss of the Dragon" is the name of the pressure point attack Jian uses to kill off Richard. It is not foreshadowed in any way through the film and overall makes no difference.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Jessica casually asks in their first real conversation if Jian is interested in marrying a former addict and single mother who can sew and cook, and likes Chinese food. She claims that she was just joking, but considering her shitty life, she may just be desperate to find any possible way out of it and run away. After Jian saved her life, she mentions how he has become the first person in a long time that she has begun to trust again. Jian shows a lot of sympathy towards Jessica in return, even defending her from her physically abusive pimp, which unfortunately leads to Tai's death.
  • Unstoppable Rage: After the smaller brother is killed by Jian, his brother loses his cool and mercilessly attacks. While Jian at first seems to be losing, he eventually punishes the openings that now show up and quickly dispatches his opponent.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Inspector Richard is well-known to international law enforcement as an exemplary member of the French police.
  • Villainous Friendship: Richard towards Max the pimp. Unlike the rest of his henchmen which he considers just pawns, Max is the only one Richard sees more like a friend. He appears quite sad when he dies.
  • Workaholic: Jian's job is all he knows; Jessica is stunned that he's so blocked out from the outside world that he doesn't know who Santa Claus is. Of course, he is Chinese and might not be acquainted with Western culture, but still.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Inspector Richard, when he takes Jessica's young daughter Isabel hostage and prepares to kill her, as bait to lure Jian into a trap.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Implied to be the case with Jian. He feels extremely uncomfortable when Jessica's pimp hits her (eventually jumping to her defense) and even apologizes for lightly slapping her, after she passed out on the toilet.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: Jian kills the smaller brother with a ganso bomb.
  • You Are Already Dead: The film's title refers to a technique in which an acupuncture needle is stabbed into a Pressure Point in someone's neck, causing all the blood to flow to the head thus causing aneurysm. Jian does it to Richard in the climax.
  • You Just Told Me: In order to get Richard's location in the building, Jian asks him to look out the window. Richard thinks Jian already knows, thus betraying himself when he complies.