REVIEWS: Action & Thrillers, Video — April 7, 2012 at 8:34 pm

REVIEW: Dragon Eyes (2012) + trailer

Hong (Cung Le) is a small-time crook, who accidentally kills a female on the street, while escaping from the police, and ends up in prison. Of course, on the inside he’s harrassed by the inmates, and nearly gets killed, if it wasn’t for Tiano (a glasses-wearing, aged Jean-Claude Van Damme) another inmate, who saves Hong’s life.

Later on, Tiano (how the heck they come up with names like these?) teaches Hong martial arts (you expected that, didn’t you?), and to make a long story short – Hong leaves prison a better man, and a changed man. He also now has a purpose, or it’s better to say – a mission.

While Tiano teaches Hong martial arts, he also asks the “china man” (in reality, Cung Le is Vietnamese) for a favor – to visit his neighborhood St. Jude Square, and clean it up from dueling gangs of drug dealers. Needless to say, Hong has to return the favor.

Tiano also tells his own story, about him trying to do the same, and accidentally killing his own son, as a result of which, he was put behind bars. Now, in exchange for his knowledge, Tiano wants his neighborhood cleaned, with Hong’s hands.

St. Jude is living in fear and despair, as dueling gangs of local kingpins terrorize the streets and the citizens live without a shred of hope.

The whole neighborhood is being controlled by mysterious Mr. V. (Peter Weller), who also happens to have police on his payroll.

In the middle of all this chaos, Hong arrives, and starts talking to everyone, mostly using his punches and kicks, a strategy that soon pushes everyone to see Hong as a one-man force to be reckoned with.

“Dragon Eyes” is the first film for Cung Le, where he gets to play the leading character. His previous effort “Blizhny Boy – the Ultimate Fighter” a 2007 $4 million MMA film, made by Kazakhstan, was never released due to financial problems, despite having such actors as Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa, Bolo Yeung, Eric Roberts, Gary Busey, Olivier Gruner, Oleg Taktarov, and David Carradine.

However, just as he begins to bring the community under control, Hong is confronted by Mr. V, the town’s ruthless and corrupt police chief.

At first Mr. V is impressed by Hong’s unparalleled martial arts skills, but soon sees Hong as a threat to his regime, and soon Hong will find himself in a world of trouble, when both the police and the gangs are hunting him down. Since he’s alone on the unknown ground, all he has is his “dragon eyes”, Tiano’s teachings and his spirit, to stand for what is right.

“Dragon Eyes” is in a lot of ways, similar to the film that was released a couple of years ago, called “Blood and Bone” with Mchael Jai White.

Both films seem to follow the same formula – a martial arts hero leaves prison with a purpose, goes to some place, wreaks havoc, establishes justice, and leaves.

“Dragon Eyes” is a part of the action-movie franchise, called the “After Dark Action”. After Dark Films, the same who bring us the “After Dark Horrorfest” every year, branch out with another closely related genre: action.

They announced, along with Dark Castle Home Entertainment, to release a series of “five original, adrenaline-pumping films”, and “Dragon Eyes” is one of them. Another film that’s in the list is “Transit” with James Caviezel, and you can check out the review here.

Cung Le might not possess the same acting skills as Michael Jai White (who also happens to be one of the most gifted and great martial artists I’ve seen on screen), but he’s battle-tested, and surely knows a thing or two about martial arts. Le is (or was, I do not follow MMA this often) a numerous times Strike Force champion (according to Le’s official website, his official MMA record stands at 7 wins and 1 loss).

Van Damme has a brief role here (ruling out the rumors that he only has a cameo), and yes, he also gets to do some fighting, some of it, with Cung Le.

The old man who plays “George” (Danny Mora) looks exactly like the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussain. The moment I saw Nova, I was like “okay, what is Saddam doing in a martial arts film?”…

At first I thought it was Jerry Haleva, who has been playing Saddam Hussain in nearly every film since the early 90s. Turns out it wasn’t him, and Mora has never played Saddam in a movie, which was strange to me, considering his resemblance to the late political leader of Iraq.

I believe Van Damme agreed to do this as a favor to John Hyams, whom he has worked before on “Universal Soldier Regeneration”, and then again on “Universal Soldier New Dimension”. Oh yes, Van Damme’s son Chris is also in “Dragon Eyes”, playing a corrupt cop.

As for the film itself, the story, like mentioned before is easy to follow, there are some very good, brutal fights (martial arts fans will be satisfied as John Hyams has some experience in how to do films with martial arts in them).

While this cannot be considered as another “Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle”, the film stands very good on its own. I enjoyed it, and I hope you will too. Check out the trailer below.




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One Comment

  1. I saw “Blizhny Boy – the Ultimate Fighter” already, but looks like movie budget was around $700, not $4 million. Boring fights, boring dialogues, boring storyline. Epic fail…

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