Kiss of the Dragon Blu-ray features poor video and great audio in this mediocre Blu-ray release
China's top secret agent visits Paris on
a pleasure trip only to encounter government espionage at the highest level.
For more about Kiss of the Dragon and the Kiss of the Dragon Blu-ray release, see Kiss of the Dragon Blu-ray Review published by Sir Terrence on January 6, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
I am a huge fan of martial arts movies, especially those starring Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet
Li. I have always preferred these movies be made for the Chinese audience, as opposed to those
marketed and made for western audiences. Martial arts movies made for western audiences are
watered down and bleached of their Asian influence and replaced with western sensibilities that
rob the movie of profound depth and emotional expression. Kiss of the Dragon suffers
from this phenomenon, not to mention being horribly miscast to boot. There is a lot to like about
"Kiss of the Dragon", as it has all of the necessary ingredients for a kick ass martial art movie.
The fight scenes are very well staged, and provide all of the visual elements that make them look
real and believable. You have great chase scenes, great stunts, and all of the necessary gun play
and big explosions that anyone can desire. What you don't have is the right combination and
chemistry for a believable romantic story line. What you don't have is originality, as this storyline
is so over used it has become rather boring to watch. It is a by the numbers hero rescues damsel
in distress, but with a child thrown in to give it a bit of a twist. The dialog is often awkward, and
disjointed, the plot so full of holes that it resembles Swiss cheese. Bridget Fonda is not a very
good hooker; the crooked inspector leaves as many bodies in the street as Li does, and he is
supposed to be a little more discreet, everyone seems to be very skilled in martial arts, and a
police force that seems to know Lui's every move, but t cannot seem to capture him. This might
not be important to some, because what this movie does deliver is very well choreographed fight
and chase scenes, and isn't this why we watch these kinds of movies? I did find the use of
acupuncture needles as finishers in combat a nice effect, and the more quiescent scenes
featuring Li were also nice. But these moments were few and far in between, and fighting alone
cannot carry a movie, nor make it a good one. With a little tweaking of the cast, and better
editing, this movie would have been much better, and quite frankly more entertaining.
In reading up on this film, I discovered that this it was made in response to Li fans desiring more
realistic fight scenes. Director Chris Nohan chose to ditch the CGI enhanced action sequences,
and the extensive wire work found in other martial arts movies and used more extensive
choreographed moves, more camera movement, and quicker panning between different angles
instead. Now this flick is not without CGI or wire work altogether, as wire work was added to one
of the last fight sequences between Li and Cyril Raffaelli to add clarity to Raffaelli kicks, as he was
moving to fast for the camera to catch the action (imagine that!). This fight scene was also
slowed down in real time, as both Li and Raffaelli moved to fast to be captured by the camera at
normal speed. The "Kiss of the Dragon" is a move in which one punctures a needle the back of
the neck at a certain spot which causes paralysis, and causes all of the body's blood to travel to
the brain causing an aneurysm. This move was also done in another martial art movie "DOA:
Dead or Alive", and in various different forms in other martial art movies as well.
Liu Siu-jian, a Chinese intelligence agent, is sent to Paris to help apprehend a Chinese mob boss
Mr. Big. He meets Inspector Jean-Pierre Richard, a corrupt and violent French police detective, at
a hotel. Richard fools Liu into believing he is providing reconnaissance of a meet involving Mr. Big.
Plans are changed when Mr. Big is introduced to two prostitutes, who take him to his room to
party with him. While being pleasured, one of the prostitutes tries to murder Mr. Big. Witnessing
the events from a surveillance room, Liu rushes to stop the prostitute. Richard shortly enters,
only to shoot Mr. Big and the prostitute with Liu's police-issue handgun, framing Liu for the
murders. Realizing he has been set up, Liu manages to escape from the hotel with a security
tape showing Richard shooting Mr. Big. Chinese liaisons are sent to France after the murder
attempt, and Richards makes Liu the primary suspect as he provides them details of the incident.
The liaisons do not believe Richard story. Liu manages to contact one of the liaisons, in an
attempt to pass on the tape to reveal the truth. Due to French police surveillance, the meet
between the liaison and Liu is spotted, and the liaison is assassinated. During Liu's escape, he
loses the tape in the chaos, and is forced to maintain a low profile. Later he meets Jessica Kamen,
an American woman, whose daughter was kidnapped by Richard to force Jessica into prostitution.
Liu discovers Jessica was the second prostitute at the hotel during the night of Mr. Big's murder.
He realizes she can prove his innocence, but she refuses to go without her retrieving her
daughter Isabel. Can Liu save the girl, and put an end to Richards's corruption?
Kiss of the Dragon kicks its way onto the Bluray format in a 1080p/MPEG-2 encoding,
framed in a 2:36:1 aspect ratio that is quite frankly a visual mess. First, it looks no better to these
eyes than a standard DVD would look; as it lacks detail and definition that high definition video is
known for. The source is not optimized, as we see brief spurts of speckles, and occasional dirt and
scratches. Blacks are inky deep, but often so deep it hid shadow detail. On location lightning is dark
leaving images ill defined and hard to see. Worse the overall picture quality is dogged by a warm
yellowing that affects everything from skin tones to the sky. It also affected the color palette which
caused images to lose their natural coloring, and appear drab, under saturated, and a bit smeared.
Contrast is all over the place, as you can see a lack of brightness stability and creates a bit of
fluttering in the images. Images also lack depth, and appear very one dimensional and flat to these
eyes. Colors overall were washed out, as blood lack the requisite "redness" that convinces the eyes
you are seeing actual blood. I also found a very rare occurrence of image trails on arms and legs
that caused a bit of image instability. Fox has always been known for providing good picture quality
on its releases, but they fell far short on this one.
The 5.1 Dts HD master audio track is very impressive, but it has a pet peeve of mine that I
couldn't shake. This lossless presentation is well mixed, and utilizes every inch of the sound field,
and every speaker to full effect. While there was nice delineation between music, effects and
dialog, they lacked sound field depth, which flattened out the spatial effect of the entire mix. The
heavy use of the surrounds helps make that effect less noticeable, as they added a nice
envelopment which countered the flat front sound stage. Sonic detail is very good, but not
excellent as punches, kicks, impacts, came across clearly, but had detail often drowned out by
high levels of bass coming from the LFE and main three front channels. Shattering glass often
had that fried bacon sound, and did not sound like shattering glass in some cases. Channel to
channel panning was smooth, and highly effective. My only problem with this mix is that it had a
tilted frequency response, which favored the bass and deep bass frequencies to the point that
some effects lacked that last bit of resolution and detail. This is nit picking, but I noticed it, and
others that utilize full range fronts along with a subwoofer will probably notice it as well. This
soundtrack fared much better than the video in this case, but it made for a very unbalanced
presentation when they were combined together.
Extras on this disc are very sparse and not very well done. It is a shame Fox didn't port over the
extras from the DVD, but lack of disc space may have prevented this. Audio Commentary with Director Chris Nahon, Jet Li, and Bridget Fonda is full of repeated
information, as each commentator recorded their parts separately and at different times. There
were a lot of pauses, and if it wasn't for Bridget Fonda, you could call this one in. She offered the
most in the way of commentary, and covered quite a bit of territory. Jet Li is not that far behind
her, and Nohan could have been left on the sidelines for this one. Trailers features snippets from various Fox titles presented in full high definition.
I really love the martial arts genre, but I just couldn't like this movie, and couldn't wait till it was
finally over. Miscasting, poor picture quality, lame writing, and the lack of extras make this movie
quite forgettable. I would recommend you rent this movie first to see if it is worth a purchase. If
you are going to purchase this movie, get the DVD version, as it looks better, and has more value
on the disc in the form of extra content. In my opinion you are not going to give up much in terms
of picture quality on the DVD, as this Bluray release does not match the DVD in this respect. In the
words of Antoine from "In Living Color", hated it!
Blu-ray bundles with Kiss of the Dragon (2 bundles)
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