Jet Li

Although he's not yet a household name in the West, Jet Li has been an Eastern hero for over 20 years, with more than 30 Hong Kong films under his very black belt.

His first screen role, at the tender age of 16, was in "Shaolin Temple" (1979). Despite the lack of wirework or complex choreography, his talent immediately shone through.

Seven films later and Tsui Hark's "Once Upon a Time in China" (1991) cemented Li's reputation as a major Hong Kong star. Li played the legendary Wong Fei-Hung, a Chinese hero also protrayed by Jackie Chan.

The martial arts expert honoured another Chinese hero - Bruce Lee - in "Fist of Legend" (1994), a remake of Lee's "Fist of Fury" (1972). As quiet scholar Chen Zen, Li defends the Jing Wu kung fu school from the Japanese. The film's breathtaking fight sequences combine lightning choreography and subtle wirework, and impressed the Wachowski brothers sufficiently to employ choreographer Yuen Woo Ping to oversee the fight scenes in "The Matrix".

Li's US debut was in "Lethal Weapon 4" (1998), where he played a villain for the first time. Despite the role reversal his talent was largely untapped on screen.

His second American outing, "Romeo Must Die" (2000), was more successful. However, all the special effects, including computer generated kicks and x-rays of bones breaking, failed to conceal a pedestrian "Romeo and Juliet" retread.

Now with "Kiss of the Dragon" (2001), written by Luc Besson, it looks like Li has finally found his breakthrough movie. The choreography is everything we'd expect from a man who likes his martial arts bloody, and there's a strong supporting cast in the shape of Bridget Fonda and Tchéky Karyo.

After only breaking into the US in 1998, Jet Li is well on his way to becoming a truly global star and a household name, like his heroes Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.

"Kiss of the Dragon" opens in the UK on Friday 9th November 2001.