During the making of a fight scene in the Jet Li action movie Kiss of the Dragon, there was a mistake that made the scene even better than it was.
One of the combat scenes in the martial arts film Kiss of the Dragon, starring Jet Li from 2001, was improved by a mistake that was left in the movie. Li plays Liu Jian, a Chinese police officer assigned to capture a Chinese drug boss in Paris, in the movie Kiss of the Dragon. (Ric Young). When his co-conspirator, crooked Parisian police chief Richard (Tchéky Karyo), frames him for the drug lord’s murder, Liu hooks up with Jessica (Bridget Fonda) to clear his name and save her daughter.
In one fight scene in Kiss of the Dragon, Jessica’s abusive pimp Lupo (May Ryan) repeatedly strikes her, and Liu’s intervention kicks off a fight scene with Lupo’s cohorts. The dialogue portion of the scene and the fight scene were planned to be shot individually, with the scene cutting before Liu grabs Lupo, pulls him back onto a table, and strikes him. However, on one take, director Chris Nahon forgot to say ‘Cut!’. Jet Li, whose blinding speed has been well-known since he began his career in The Shaolin Temple movie series, was unaware that Nahon didn’t mean for the scene to continue, and initiated Liu’s attack on Lupo.
Ryan and everyone else were caught off guard by this, and as seen on the Kiss of the Dragon DVD, this proved to be to the movie’s advantage. In the documentary Jet Li – Fighting Philosophy, Fonda states “I didn’t know, Max didn’t know, Jet didn’t know” with respect to Li’s continuing of the fight choreography not being intended. Despite this not being planned, the shocked look on Ryan’s face ended up working out very well for the scene.
In the end, the take of Li grabbing Ryan too soon was the one that was used in Kiss of the Dragon as the starting point of the martial arts fight sequence it led into. As Nahon explained, “It was the best one. We tried to do a third, but it wasn’t as real as this one, and Jet is always ready for that.” Nahon’s description of this mistaken early attack by Li as the most real is very fitting when it comes to Kiss of the Dragon’s approach to its martial arts sequences.
For Kiss of the Dragon, Li and the production team sought to minimize the use of wires in the film’s fight scenes for a more realistic style, with wire-fu only very sparingly used at certain points in the movie. The popularity of Li’s 1994 movie Fist of Legend was the main template in this regard. It proved to be the right move, with Kiss of the Dragon often hailed as one of Li’s best Western-produced action movies.
Mistakes like Nahon forgetting to call for a take to cut and Li proceeding with the beginning of a fight scene happen at times in the making of martial arts films. While everyone involved takes the necessary precautions to avoid them, such misjudged timing can occasionally end up being a blessing in disguise in the accidental ways they can enhance a fight scene’s impact. For Kiss of the Dragon, alongside action scenes like Li’s final showdown with future District 13 star Cyril Raffaelli, Nahon’s missed “Cut!” call and Li’s speed and reflexes combine to give a far better, and more real, start to one of the film’s lightning-fast martial arts fights.