In a lawless suburb of New Orleans, warring
drug cartels rule the streets and the hapless citizenry can’t do a damn
thing about it, pandejo. That is until a mysterious stranger (Cung
Le) shows up and begins kicking ass and taking names, fairly often
forgetting about the name-taking part entirely. Drawing on the
teachings of his prison buddy slash sensei (Jean-Claude Van Damme), the
spirited newcomer pits his wits, and his fists, against the best that
local underworld kingpin Mr V (Peter Weller, Robocop) has to
offer in an effort to clean up the streets and deal with his own
convoluted back story to his presumed satisfaction.
Resembling nothing so much as an aging monk
in spite of his Bono-esque penchant for trendy eyewear, Van Damme once
more displays a vulnerability that nicely counters the
testosterone-drenched machismo of his early 90s on-screen persona. But
his role is distinctly secondary to that of former kickboxer and mixed
martial artist Le, heretofore best known for his roles in Fighting,
Tekken and Pandorum, who ably and readily steals the
show. A tremendous screen presence, Le’s understated physicality is
neatly complimented by some first-rate fight choreography and immersive,
suitably frenetic camerawork.
Visually Dragon Eyes pulls out all
the stops to distinguish itself from its ‘shot on digital, sent straight
to video’ action brethren, and visually it is entirely successful -
whatever was done in the post, it worked a charm. Colours are vibrant,
the digitally added grain and other filmic effects are entirely suited
to the gritty subject matter and the prison sequences rendered dreamlike
and emotionally barren thanks to some neat bleaching effects.
Furthermore Van Damme and Le appear to relish their roles, as does
Weller, who makes the most of his accomplished turn as a baddie with a
heart of stone. One or two of the performances are variable, as one
might expect, and the sloppy Spanish expletive-laden screenplay could
have benefitted from a rewrite or two. But all things considered
Dragon Eyes really delivers the goods, and is an enjoyable and
surprisingly effective slice of martial arts mayhem.
A 10-minute Featurette, containing cast and
crew interviews and behind the scenes footage.