KISS OF THE DRAGON: The writers of THE FIFTH ELEMENT, Luc Besson (who also directed the Bruce Willis film) and Robert Mark Kamen, have teamed up again to deliver Jet Li in the action thriller KISS OF THE DRAGON. Li stars as Liu Jiuan, a Chinese agent so dedicated to his job that he has no friends, no family, no dreams. He is sent to Paris to help the French police capture a Chinese gangster, but France's top cop, Jeanne-Pierre Richard (Tcheky Karyo), has set Liu up to take the fall for a brutal killing he himself carried out. On the run in a strange city, Liu keeps a low profile until he unwillingly becomes friends with an American hooker, Jessica (Bridget Fonda)--who just happens to hold the key to his innocence. But Richard is always one step ahead of them--he has Jessica's daughter. Li and Fonda make a great team; their relationship is at the core of the film, as neither character has ever been able to put complete trust in another person before. The action scenes, directed by Corey Yuen, are fast and furious and very violent, featuring mesmerizing moves by Li, especially one involving a billiard ball. Chris Nahon, in his directorial debut, makes excellent use of the location, including numerous shots of famous Parisian landmarks as the bad cops try to machine-gun down Liu in the streets and sewers and on the Seine.
ONG-BAK: THE THAI WARRIOR: Tony Jaa follows in the powerful martial arts footsteps of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li in ONG-BAK: THE THAI WARRIOR, one of the first films to center on the ancient fighting system of Muay Thai, which utilizes the body's limbs to potentially devastating effect. Jaa stars as Ting, a quiet young man who lives in the peaceful village of Nong Pradu. As the village's special celebration approaches, a Bangkok villain named Don (Wannakit Siriput) steals the head of the Buddha statue Ong-Bak, which is said to protect the village from bad luck. Ting volunteers to go to the big city to bring back the head of Ong-Bak, but remembers what he was taught by sage monk Pra Cru (Woranard Tantipidok): he must not use his Muay Thai skills to harm people. However, soon after arriving in Bangkok, Ting, a peaceful fish out of water, finds that the only way to recapture the village's sacred treasure is by using his arms, his legs--and his head.
Influenced by the films of Thai action star Phanna Rithikrai, director Prachya Pinkaew hired the Muay Thai expert to serve as martial arts and stunt choreographer for ONG-BAK, resulting in highly effective and believable scenes between Ting and a multitude of criminals and evil boxers out to get him. Pinkaew adds a fun sense of humor to the serious story, not only in some of the crazy stunts but also in the character of George, played by Thai comic Petchthai Wongkamlao. Jaa is charmingly fearless in the lead role, performing all his own stunts without any special effects, computer enhancement, or ropes.