Around the time that Romeo Must Die appeared in theaters,
Jet’s assistant showed him how to check the message boards on his website,
where fans post all sorts of opinions. He was most interested in their
criticism -- the aspects of the film that they had been dissatisfied with.
What he found is that one segment of his audience - the enthusiastic, young
hard core fans with very high expectations - didn't like the fight scenes.
Interestingly, his assistant Beaver, was expressing opinions that were very
similar to this segment of his audience. This group urged him to make a
movie that relied less on wires and more on real "on-the-ground" martial
arts. (Thank God! This website is against movies that use too much wire work
in the fight scenes).
In fact, he had been thinking along the same lines, ever since “The Matrix”
came out. Wire techniques and computer effects make it possible for nearly
any actor to do those scenes. As long they are reasonably fit, they can
manage it with only a short period of training. The environment had become
just like Hong Kong's in the early 90's. And so, once again, he found
himself searching for a story that could showcase some hard-core fighting.
Although he had liked “Romeo Must Die's” production values, he had not been
crazy about the story.
Then, his manager Steve Chasman told him that the French director Luc Besson
was in town and wanted to meet him. He thought this was interesting, so they
met and talked for two hours. He was curious about how movies were made in
Europe, and he asked him questions about Hong Kong filmmaking. It was a
valuable experience; most people don't get a chance to reflect on and
explain their own particular way of working. They compared notes on each
system - what worked and what didn't. They found that they agreed on a lot,
probably because they were both outsiders to the American system.
During their conversation, Jet told Luc an idea he had for
a movie, about a man's promise to a woman and how he would be challenged to
keep it. The main character is just an ordinary guy. He wins in the end, of
course, but you want to see how he reacts to crisis, and how he handles his
fears. You want to care whether he lives or dies. Neither of them was
interested in making the protagonist a superhero, the kind who saves the
world. He doesn't like action heroes who are too perfect. The character
should grow as a person, just like each of them learns something new
everyday. It's more realistic.
So they decided to make this movie together. In three weeks, they had a
completed screenplay. About five or six weeks later, they started shooting.
Four months after that, they wrapped up production. The entire process had
taken about six months, from beginning to end.
As for the martial arts that they would use in the film, Jet had two
objectives in mind. Just like with Fist of Legend, the action had to be very
realistic. But it also had to fit the uniqueness of the Parisian setting. He
put a lot of pressure on his team - Corey Yuen and his stunt guys from Hong
Kong - to be creative and innovative. In fact, he is very proud of his
entire martial arts crew, especially since he asked so much from them. They
put out a call for qualified stuntmen from all over Europe who had martial
arts training: karate, Tae Kwon Do, various other styles. Out of an initial
pool of 80, they selected about 30 to 40. It was great to work with them,
especially because his goal for “Kiss of the Dragon” was to create something
He was very satisfied with the results, especially the ending of the film.
It was only after they wrapped production on “Kiss of the Dragon” that he
realized, "I didn't get to see Paris at all!" He had been too busy. For most
movies, he puts in 100%. For this one, it was closer to 120% or 130%. Having
made the film, he said he was not terribly concerned with how much it made
at the box office, or how other people defined its success. Personally, Jet
was deeply satisfied with the film because he fulfilled a duty to himself.
If you watch this movie, you will know who Jet Li is.
This movie is, in my opinion, one of Jet’s best movies. The action is
incredible as Jet attacks an entire police precinct all by himself. He
fights against many people at the same time and against two in particular:
one of them is really tall, a giant compared to Jet and the other guy is a
great kicker. I was very disappointed by “Romeo Must Die” but this movie
made me very happy.