The film was made to satisfy Li's fans, who requested more realistic fight scenes. It is notable as most of the action sequences did not use CGI or wire work; only two scenes required CGI enhancement and only one scene involved wire work.
Liu Siu-jian (Jet Li), a Chinese intelligence agent, is sent to Paris to help apprehend Chinese mob boss Mr. Big (Ric Young), who is involved in heroin smuggling. He meets Inspector Jean-Pierre Richard (Tchéky Karyo), a corrupt and violent French police detective, at a hotel. Richard tricks Liu into believing he is simply providing reconnaissance of a meet involving Mr. Big. The plans are changed when Mr. Big is introduced to two prostitutes, one being Jessica Kamen (Bridget Fonda), an American woman, who takes him to his room to service him. While Liu and the rest are watching through the surveillance camera, Mr. Big kicks everyone out except for the two prostitutes. After pretending to seduce him, one of the prostitutes then stabs Mr. Big. Overseeing the events from a surveillance room, Liu rushes to stop the killing, but Richard enters shortly later to shoot Mr. Big and the prostitute with Liu's police-issued handgun, framing Liu for the murders.
Realizing he has been set up, Liu manages to escape from the hotel with a surveillance tape showing Richard shooting Mr. Big. Chinese liaisons are sent to France after the events to investigate the matter, as Richard makes Liu the primary suspect. However, the liaisons do not believe the story Richard provides. Liu manages to contact one of the liaisons, and passes on to him the tape that reveals the truth. Due to French police surveillance, the meet between the liaison and Liu is spotted, and the liaison is assassinated. Liu is then forced to flee from a horde of cops and even GIGN commandos. After Liu escapes, he is forced to maintain a low profile.
As he considers his situation, he meets Jessica, whose daughter was kidnapped by Richard to force her 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. Liu decides the tape would provide the best evidence, and sends Jessica to Richard's office to steal the tape. Jessica manages to get the tape, so Liu and Jessica head to an orphanage where Isabel is kept. However, Richard anticipates this move after discovering Jessica has stolen the tape, and ambushes the couple at the orphanage. During their escape, Jessica is shot in the chest. Liu manages to get her to the hospital in time, and becomes driven to retrieve her daughter. Liu arrives at the police station where Richard is holding Isabel hostage, and fights his way through Richard's henchmen to his office. Once at the office, Liu rescues Isabel, getting shot by Richard in the process. To save Isabel, Liu kills Richard by sticking an acupuncture needle into the back of his neck in a forbidden location known as the "kiss of the dragon," which stimulates all the body's blood to travel to the brain to cause a painful death via a brain aneurysm. Liu survives the gunshot wound, and returns Isabel to her mother.
The title "Kiss of the Dragon" is derived from one of the last scenes in the movie, in which Liu punctures Richard in the back of the neck with an acupuncture needle at a "very forbidden" point on the body. The puncture itself, called "kiss of the dragon", traps all the body's blood in the head and causes side effects of quadriplegia, bleeding from the head's orifices, and a painful death via a brain aneurysm.Jet Li as Liu Siu-jian
Bridget Fonda as Jessica Kamen
Tchéky Karyo as Inspector Jean-Pierre Richard
Ric Young as Mister Big
Burt Kwouk as Uncle Tai
Max Ryan as Lupo
Kentaro as Chen
Laurence Ashley as Aja
Cyril Raffaelli as Twin
Didier Azoulay as Twin
John Forgeham as Max
Paul Barrett as Pilot
Colin Prince as Lupo's Assistant
Vincent Glo as Pluto
Vincent Wong as Minister Tang
The director filmed most of the action sequences without CGI or wire work; only two scenes required CGI enhancement and only one scene involved wire work. Wire work was added to one of the last fight sequences between Li and Cyril Raffaelli, in order to add clarity to Raffaelli's kicks, as he was moving too fast for the camera. Nahon had to slow down this fight scene, as both Li and Raffaelli were moving too quickly to be captured clearly at normal recording speed.
The French version of the film is notably different from others; it contains a zoomed-out shot of Tcheky Karyo shooting one of his henchmen in the head, resulting in a fountain of blood erupting. This passage was cropped from most international versions of the movie.
The movie met with mixed reaction from critics, who thought violence overwhelmed it at the expense of the story and even a true portrayal of martial arts. The fans generally rated it as better than Jet Li's other American films (Romeo Must Die, The One and Cradle 2 the Grave).
Due to its violence, Kiss of the Dragon was banned in China. Li spoke out about this censorship.
Kiss of the Dragon opened at 2,025 North American theaters on July 6, 2001 to an opening weekend gross of $13,304,027 ($6,569 per screen). It went on to a total North American gross of $36,845,124. Its total worldwide box office gross is $64,437,847.
The soundtrack was released on July 3, 2001 through Virgin Records, and consisted mainly of a blend of hip hop and electronic music.
- "Mystikal Fever" – 3:49 (Mystikal)
- "Lapdance" – 3:33 (N.E.R.D)
- "Aerodynamic" – 3:35 (Daft Punk and Slum Village)
- "Fuck That" – 3:17 (Bathgate)
- "What You Got?" – 4:19 (Chino XL)
- "Sing" – 4:41 (Mouse)
- "Cheatin'" – 3:46 (Liberty City)
- "Don't Blame It on I" – 4:05 (The Congos)
- "Ghir Dini" – 3:59 (Assia)
- "As If You Said Nothing" – 4:38 (Craig Armstrong)
- "Adore You" – 4:21 (Lisa Barbuscia)