Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Paul Thomas Anderson Says 'Edge Of Tomorrow' Is "F*cking Great," Also Loves 'Grand Budapest Hotel'  Paul Thomas Anderson Says 'Edge Of Tomorrow' Is "F*cking Great," Also Loves 'Grand Budapest Hotel' 10 Unaired TV Pilots By A-List Directors That We Want To See 10 Unaired TV Pilots By A-List Directors That We Want To See 'Kick-Ass' Creator Mark Millar Says A Hit-Girl Solo Movie Was Once In The Works With 'The Raid' Director Gareth Evans 'Kick-Ass' Creator Mark Millar Says A Hit-Girl Solo Movie Was Once In The Works With 'The Raid' Director Gareth Evans Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot 30 Films You Forgot Were Oscar Winners 30 Films You Forgot Were Oscar Winners Watch: Tom Hardy & Gary Oldman Face Off In The First Trailer For Thriller ‘Child 44’ Watch: Tom Hardy & Gary Oldman Face Off In The First Trailer For Thriller ‘Child 44’ The 10 Best Films Of 2005 The 10 Best Films Of 2005 Review: Documentary 'Night Will Fall' Is A Powerful Reminder Of The Horrors Of The Holocaust Review: Documentary 'Night Will Fall' Is A Powerful Reminder Of The Horrors Of The Holocaust Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point

Review: Jean Claude Van Damme & Cung Le Pic 'Dragon Eyes' Features Impressive Action, Empty Story

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist May 14, 2012 at 12:01PM

Hong, the lead character in “Dragon Eyes,” might as well be a Man Without A Name when he wanders into the small town of St. Jude. He seeks a second chance, an opportunity to atone for past violent misdeeds seen in fuzzy flashback. It doesn’t take long for the viewer to realize this means a lot of people are about to be kicked in the face. One of the marquee titles from After Dark Action -- the new action imprint from Dark Castle and After Dark -- “Dragon Eyes” at least delivers on this aspect.
5
Dragon Eyes

Hong, the lead character in “Dragon Eyes,” might as well be a Man Without A Name when he wanders into the small town of St. Jude. He seeks a second chance, an opportunity to atone for past violent misdeeds seen in fuzzy flashback. It doesn’t take long for the viewer to realize this means a lot of people are about to be kicked in the face. One of the marquee titles from After Dark Action -- the new action imprint from Dark Castle and After Dark -- “Dragon Eyes” at least delivers on this aspect.

Our hero is played by martial artist Cung Le, a tight ball of energy with a pout. Not an entirely expressive performer, he sets the tone for this low-stakes actioner, his thousand mile stare and minimal but clear English painting him as a Man of Serious Action. Director John Hyams, who has revealed himself to be a straight-faced action auteur of the straight-to-DVD set, resists the urge to compliment Le’s taciturn demeanor with some sort of comic relief. As a result, the solidly convincing gang types that populate “Dragon Eyes” take cues from his poker face. If you like your action red meat-flavored, you’ve come to the right place.

Dragon Eyes

As Hong introduces himself to the local gangs in much the same way action stars usually do, he finds himself earning a bit of respect. Kingpin Mister V (Peter Weller, inexplicably pimped out) smartly realizes he could lose all his money to an obviously skilled interloper, or he could gain a much more valuable weapon and minimize his losses. More importantly, he knows a high-kicking martial artist who can rob two major gangs is a stronger asset than the two tribes of Hispanic and black punching bags, delicately claiming, “I don’t eat dried bananas, and I don’t eat collard greens.”

Hyams, son of Hollywood journeyman Peter Hyams, previously directed the direct-to-DVD action high-water mark, “Universal Soldier: Regeneration,” and he renews his dark, moody, humorless aesthetic here. Whereas that was a science fiction action film featuring enough built-in ideas to be compelling, “Dragon Eyes” has a threadbare narrative that runs out of steam around the hour mark. Hyams attempts to fill the gaps with extended, darkly-lit flashbacks that delay an outcome that’s never once in doubt.

Dragon Eyes

Just like 'Regeneration,' Hyams saves a juicy role for Jean-Claude Van Damme, seen in flashbacks as Hong’s mentor in prison. It’s a nothing role, though to stretch the film’s runtime, he’s given a backstory that involves a tragic death of his own. Van Damme has aged gracefully into an onscreen combatant with considerably mileage, and while his part seems entirely superfluous, he actually brings a sharp sense of gravitas to the production. A younger Van Damme would not have brought nuance to lines like, “If you get shot, it’s only because you did not understand the man who shot you.” But now in his fifties, the Muscles From Brussels has surprisingly become a formidable onscreen presence, outshining his numerous peers of that era on a much smaller canvas.

Where Hyams excels, and how Hollywood could learn from him, is in the action sequences. With top-notch action choreography, Hyams respects the onscreen skill of martial arts stuntmen, capturing every fluid motion and using distinct angles that best maximize the violent impact of fists on flesh. Le doesn’t have the charisma of your usual leading man, nor does he have the flexibility to feature in fight scenes of a diverse nature, and for that, the film suffers. And yet, the purity of a stone cold beating, the cinematic violence of one assailant taking down another is a type of termite art that Hyams has mastered, a pugilistic poetry that gives “Dragon Eyes” an odd sense of integrity. Paced sluggishly and with that cheap digital sheen of most direct-to-DVD features, it’s not much of a film, but as a Hyams demo reel, it suggests a great deal of promise. [C+]

This article is related to: Review, After Dark Films, Jean-Claude van Damme, Peter Weller, Cung Le


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates