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Heroes of the Zeroes: Kiss of the Dragon

by on June 13, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Kiss of the Dragon”
Rated R
2001

For all the hyperbolic melting over “Hero” (so derivative it could’ve been “Squatting Lion, Obstructed Lizard”) Jet Li’s true Zeroes masterpiece was ignored — one in which the diminutive demon moved so fast, some scenes were slowed in post-production.

Salivate over the craziness of hard-R martial arts so swift it had to be decelerated for comprehension by the brain and prepare for 2001’s “Kiss of the Dragon.”

“Dragon’s” furious pace was Li’s response to fan demands for more realistic fighting. So please ignore co-star Bridget Fonda’s squeal-filled subplot. Hell, the whole narrative is negligible, although Tcheky Karyo’s squealing-Frenchman heavy makes a great foe.

The film exists to put Li — as Liu, a Chinese intelligence agent framed for murder — on the move in Paris for scintillating sequences of hand-to-hand combat. It’s all the more exciting because Li always looks like a stockboy springing to action, and Liu appears genuinely unnerved by resources dispatched to dispose of him.

A hotel escape features the best billiards death since “Carlito’s Way.” Li improbably skitters and dashes during a melee in, atop and around a ferryboat. He defends Fonda against a parade of tall-tree foes with (at least) a good foot on him.

Plus, Cory Yuen’s action choreography sets the stage for a bone-crushing showdown against twins whose signature move is an execution alley-oop, a WTF karate-class fight and a truly badass final kill to boot. Forget the need to always know who’s beating whom or why — “Dragon’s” gritty, giddy grindhouse thrills trump logic.

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