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|The Movie Industry Eats Its
Kiss of the Dragon (video)
written by Luc Besson
starring Jet Li, Bridget Fonda
| Movie-making is an incestuous business; here we
have Chinese martial-arts star Jet Li starring in a film written by Luc Besson
(La Femme Nikita and
Leon [aka The Professional] and
The Fifth Element), featuring Tcheky Karyo (La Femme
Nikita) and Brigitte Fonda
(Point of No Return [aka Remake Without a Point]),
the American trivialization of La Femme Nikita. And it looks
a lot like something Sergio Leone might have made.
Except that Sergio would do it better.
Unfortunately, it's less than the best for everyone, except possibly Fonda,
who seems to be improving somewhat in her art as time goes on.
The basic story is a classic -- one might say a cliche as easily -- the honest
cop from out of town framed by the crooked cop (who then spends the rest
of the film trying to kill him). Jackie Chan [or even Terence Hill] has done
basically the same story several times over, usually better, though generally
not with the hard-edged violence we see here.
One of my problems with action films these days is that the really hard stunts
tend to contain large chunks of CGI -- the final carjump in the remake of
Gone in 60 Seconds, which was simply impossible to do with real cars
-- and, even when they don't, we assume they do. There's none of the air
of "Oh, gosh! How the *&$%* did they do *that*?" or "Wow! That's incredible!"
that, say, the Terminator jumping the Harley off the embankment into the
Flood Control channel or the car just missing both of the falling chimneys
in Hooper or the final car stunt in the original Gone in
60 Seconds engenders, since you know that there isn't any CGI involved
there, somehow real stuntmen did real stunts that look spectacularly impossible.
((Well, actually, there *is* CGI in the Terminator 2 Harley jump;
the stuntman and bike were rigged on cables and treated as a puppet on a
crane and CGI was used to paint out the cables. But that could have been
accomplished other ways.))
And there's some of that here; one reviewer says that he's glad there isn't
too much wire work, and i have to agree -- but, watching the extras on this
DVD, i discover that the niftiest stunt -- the one that inspired the graphic
design of the DVD itself -- is a combination of wire work and CGI, which
disappoints me. In one of his films from the 70's, Terence Hill grabs a number
of balls off a pool table, and juggles them, while flipping them one by one
back-hand at various Bad Guys' heads. The balls Hill juggled weren't CGI
and he had to make them go where he wanted them to, instead of making motions
that the CGI crew could later line up balls to.
Which is not to take anything away from Jet Li -- the man's speed, precision
and ahtleticism are incredible. The scene in which he simultaneously fights
-- and defeats -- three black belts using batons has to be seen to be believed,
and some of his other work is equally breathtaking.
Bridget Fonda as the Hooker Who Knows Something is adequate; much better
than she was in Point of No Return, the only other film i can recall
seeing her in. Her byplay with a piece of steampipe is a neat visual gag.
Tcheky Karyo makes sure that every piece of scenery he comes near is well-adorned
with toothmarks as the evil crooked drug-dealing French cop -- sort of like
the DEA agent played by Gary Oldman in "Leon", but not as charming. His demise
is appropriately gross by this film's standards.
Besson's script doesn't go for the same sort of issues as he did with Nikita
or Leon, though he does cast a brief eye on the plight of the
prostitute in modern Paris (though i suspect he exaggerates at least a bit).
The direction, cinematography and editing are competent and quick-enough-moving
to work, with occasional neat little grace notes -- the injured Li, having
temporarily escaped his enemies, collapses against the wall of a subway car,
his head falling to one side -- and we immediately cross-cut to a bust of
the Virgin, head tilted at the same angle, similar expression of weariness
and suffering on her features. Later, he bursts into the apparently-abandoned
Emergency Room at a small hospital, carrying the wounded Fonda; for just
a moment after he kicks open the swingong doors, they stand, she lieing in
his arms in almost exactly the pose of the "Pieta", until he screams "Somebody
help me!" and suddenly we jump-cut to a veritable horde of doctors and nurses
and attendants rushing the injured girl into surgery and working on her,
in a very effective transition.
I didn't particularly like the rap/hiphop soundtrack.
All in all a decent thriller to enjoy when there's not a Nikita or
a Leon or a Once Upon a Time in the West on cable this week...
(Incidentally, keep a close eye on the telephone on the wall in the hotel laundry
during the end of the laundry-chute sequence)