Saturday, June 13, 2015

Film Review: Dragon Eyes (2012)

Dragon Eyes (Review)
United States/2012
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...the film is partially salvaged by the strong action sequences."

After serving his prison sentence, Ryan Hong (Cung Le) arrives at St. Jude, a crime-infested neighborhood ruled by gangs and corrupt police...

Dragon Eyes follows Ryan Hong. Fresh out of prison, Hong moves into St. Jude, where he immediately tussles with the neighborhood gangsters. Hong soon finds himself dealing with a corrupt police chief, Mr. V (Peter Weller). He uses this newfound relationship to link rival gangs and make St. Jude a better place. Of course, he'll have to pummel a few gangsters to achieve his goal, especially when rivals begin tinkering with his plans. The story also presents Hong's prison time through flashbacks, where he's trained by Tiano (Jean-Claude Van Damme). The ending is a little hit-and-miss. On one hand, it's something different and interesting. On the other hand, it's very abrupt and offers little closure — like if the writer had no idea how to finish it.

Dragon Eyes is all-in-all a hit-or-miss experience. For example, the story is hollow and the characters are one-dimensional. The story gets the job done, but it really doesn't offer anything new and it never leaves any sort of impression. You also have to suspense belief in order to believe many of the contrived and illogical scenes scattered throughout. There a few dull moments, too. The characters are also an issue. Every character has a single trait, including Hong. They're presented with these flashy screens, but there's nothing dazzling about these cardboard cutouts. I think the character with the most personality is Tiano and he's only in the film for ten minutes of flashbacks — that says a lot.

Fortunately, the film is partially salvaged by the strong action sequences. Hong is fast and strong, leading to some great fist fights. The emphasis on vicious kicks makes these scenes feel like a throwback to classic Van Damme flicks, which I adore. Although there isn't much variety in the action or settings — they usually end up fighting on the same street — there is plenty of action to justify the 90 minute runtime. The story isn't all bad, either. Like I said, Tiano is interesting and his method of training was engaging — I'd even say it was motivational. Also, although farfetched and flawed, I also liked the use of corrupt police and gangs running the neighborhood — it almost gave the film a dystopian vibe.

The acting is mostly decent. Jean-Claude Van Damme is as charismatic as ever — maybe it's his accent, but I can't help but love every word uttered out of his mouth. Peter Weller is also great. Unfortunately, leading man Cung Le severely lacks charisma and delivery. No doubt Cung Le is a great martial artist, but he suffers as an actor due to a lack of conviction. He's bland and boring, it's hard to believe anything he says. This is most disappointing considering he's the leading man.

On the other hand, Cung Le excels in the well-choreographed fight scenes. The film is shot well, I liked the grungy and hyperactive style. The music is okay. (It's mostly rap.) Director John Hyams, who also directed Universal Soldier Regeneration, delivers strong action and training sequences. There are a few scenes that leave a little to be desired, but Hyams is more than serviceable — I look forward to seeing more from him. The film, however, is mostly hindered by the hollow writing and mediocre acting.

Overall, Dragon Eyes is a decent action film. Despite lacking variety, the action sequences are great. Jean-Claude Van Damme and Peter Weller also deliver strong supporting performances. Unfortunately, the film is hindered by a hollow and generic story, and a poor leading performance. If you're simply looking to kill 90 minutes and don't care much for character, this beat em' up is worth a rental or stream. Otherwise, I'd stick to the classic.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some nudity.

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