Notable Cast: Cung Le, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Peter Weller
The cast is stellar with both new and old school elements. It's got a classic action director. The hype is set. It's inclusion as one of the After Dark Action films gives it a little street cred. It won a few awards at Actionfest last year. "Dragon Eyes" should be one of the foundational stones in this second golden age of action films. Yet throughout its run time despite some very valid attempts at being artistic, this rather by the numbers action/crime piece simply misses the target on damn near every level. It killed me when the credits started rolling and I was left completely unfulfilled both as a B-grade action fan and as a fan of artistic film making. I want to love "Dragon Eyes," but the film does its best to make sure that it doesn't happen.
St. Jude is a place where the thugs and corruption run so thick, its hard to see anything else. Rival gangs battle it out for drug sales and the violence of the street has become a norm of everyday life. Hong (Cung Le) looks to change that. His eyes are set for his goal: to clean up the streets of St. Jude by any means possible even if it means using his fighting skills his crafted while behind bars under the training of Tiano (Van Damme). This does mean that he will have to come head to head with the force behind the corruption...a ruthless and sinister Mr. V (Weller).
|"My contract was for 15 minutes of screen time and at least twice as many kicks!"
...which leaves the rest of the film. Although far be it for me to criticize a film that has retread over territory done before in its script, in "Dragon Eyes" the by-the-numbers plot and half thought out characters are atrociously dry and two dimensional. If it wasn't for Cung Le's charm (and to some extent the swagger of villain Peter Weller) this film would have been boring in its plot. In-between action sequences the film simply drags on. The romantic subplot is missed if you blink, the connections to Tiano seem a bit randomly forced into the film on some sort of weird artistic merit, and every character is underdeveloped. The only real thing I felt the film had going for it plot wise was Hong's reoccurring regret over the death of a woman that seems to have a cliche but well timed twist. Beyond that it's the same old same old "stranger shows up to clean up the streets" kind of film.
|Ironically, Cung Le wears that exact outfit for almost the entire film.
As you can tell, my experience with "Dragon Eyes" was more than lack luster. A few strong fights and a charismatic lead simply couldn't save the film from its vicious cliche usage and horrible attempts at being artistic with the script and directing. Perhaps the biggest disappointment for me in 2012 considering all the hype I had going into the film. It's one that might be worth the rental or purchase later, but there are far better action films in rotation now that deserve your time.
Written By Matt Reifschneider