November 11th, 2012

DRAGON EYES (2012) ** ½

Remember when After Dark did all of those Horror Fests a while back? Well, now they’re getting into the action game. I was probably going to give them all a pass, but since this one had Van Damme in it, I decided to give it a shot. As it turns out, this one’s not too shabby so I’ll probably wind up checking them all out eventually.

UFC fighter Cung Le stars as an ex-con who moves to a crime ridden town. Almost immediately, he winds up in the middle of a gang war. Using the Kung Fu training he picked up from his sensei (Jean Claude Van Damme) in prison, Cung sets out to clean up the streets.

Dragon Eyes reunites Jean Claude Van Damme with his Universal Soldier: Regeneration director John Hyams. I didn’t like that movie as much as many of my compatriots, so I’m glad that this flick was an improvement on their previous collaboration. While some of the fight scenes are needlessly sped up and/or slowed down, there are a number of good fight sequences. I particularly liked the beatdown Cung Le gave some thugs when they touched his car, and the final fight with the main henchman was pretty good.

There were a couple of touches I could’ve done without. Every time a new character is introduced, there’s a pointless on screen graphic that shows his name and gang affiliation. There’s also a long, irritating scene involving a crackhead freaking out that probably could’ve been excised altogether.

Probably my least favorite thing about the movie was the structure. The flashback heavy narrative gets a bit tiresome and the constant back and forth robs the film of a lot of momentum. Had Dragon Eyes been told in a straightforward manner, I think it would’ve been much more effective.

It may seem like I’m picking Dragon Eyes apart, but there were some things I really liked about it. First and foremost was Van Damme’s performance. He’s great in this movie, even though I kinda wish he had more to do. The role of the wise old Kung Fu master fits him like a glove. This is definitely the kind of role he should be playing at this stage of his career. It looks good on him.

And Peter Weller is equally great. He plays the gangster who controls the street gangs. He gets a great scene where he interrupts a dirty cop while he’s with a dominatrix and Weller shows her how to really inflict pain.

Dragon Eyes may not be perfect, but you really can’t go wrong when Robocop AND Timecop are in your movie.