Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Mr. Hong (Mixed Martial Arts star Cung Le) has the Eyes of a Dragon, or ‘Dragon Eyes’ as it were, in addition to being a tortured soul due to his previous crimes against society.  This inner warrior was observed while Hong was in jail getting his ass severely whupped by some Skinhead until Tiano (Jean-Claude Van Damme) stepped in round house kicked that fool near to death.  Tiano feels he can bring that inner dragon out of Hong… by kicking him in the nutsack repeatedly.  I’m just relaying to you how Tiano is training my man.  Needless to say, with training techniques such as these, the line to get into Tiano’s Kung Fu training class is a very short one.  This training does come at a price… you would think the crushed testicles would be payment enough, but no… and it is the repayment of this debt that the story of ‘Dragon Eyes’ centers on. 

Welcome to the city of St. Jude, where the only law is complete lawlessness and the streets are overrun with drugs.  Hong rents an apartment from the pretty girl Rosanna (Crystal Mantecon) and her granddad and then proceeds to soundly beat the drug dealing homies who had the nerve to touch his ride.  Now that the king of this block has been established, it’s time to cause a little strife between the two major gangs, one filled with angry Mexicans led by the completely insane Dash (Luis Da Silva Jr.), the other filled with slightly less angry Black dudes led by the ultra smooth Antoine (Edrick Browne).  Complicating matters in St. Jude is that the Russians have landed and want a piece of the action as well.  The truth of the matter is that all of these gangs only exist at the behest of Mr. V (Peter Weller), the world’s dirtiest cop, and after seeing some of the things that Hong can do, Mr. V concludes that he could use a man like Hong on his team.  I have no idea how Mr. V. came to this conclusion, but this is what he’s decided. 

That was a bad move for Mr. V because if he was just paying just a little bit of attention he would’ve seen very clearly that Mr. Hong isn’t down for his cause.  I mean he beats up drug dealers, but doesn’t take their drugs or their money.  If you were a criminal, does that sound like somebody you really want on your team?  Of course it doesn’t.  That sounds like somebody who’s going to cause me trouble, but who are we to question the supreme evil that is the dapper Mr. V?

Guess what?  Turns out having Mr. Hong on your team of criminal enterprising was a terrible move since he’s not doing any criminal type stuff and is working as hard as he can to derail everything Mr. V does.  This doesn’t make Mr. V very happy and while Hong is a pretty slick dude, he’s not slick enough to avoid an unhappy Mr. V.  Plus, being the opportunist that he is, Mr. V has turned over the day to day operations of the criminal enterprises of St. Jude to the Russians, and these Russians are some really mean dudes. 

Regardless, Hong has a promise to keep.  Which, I think, equates to killing nearly everybody in St. Jude who happens to a criminal, if at all possible.  Which is like everybody.  I could be wrong though. 

‘Dragon Eyes’ was directed by John Hyams whose last film was ‘Universal Soldier: Regeneration’, a movie that had a narrative which was damn near incomprehensible but the action in that action film was drum tight.  ‘Dragon Eyes’ is a different style of film than ‘Universal Soldier’, being a little more soulful, and being a little more artsy with all the sepia tones and fancy graphics and whatnot, however still possessing a narrative which is damn near incomprehensible mated along with action that is drum tight, there’s just less of it than in ‘Universal Soldier’.

The basics of this narrative is pretty simple, good guy kicking bad guys in the chest real hard for crimes they are committing against Hong’s adopted neighborhood, but it’s when we get into all of the gangs, and the dirty cops, and the evil Russians and everything associated with these criminals, this is when things start to become incredibly hazy.  The whole setup for the gang activity and Mr. V and what and who Mr. V is exactly and how the whole gang thing works isn’t very clear.  Van Damme’s role in all of this, which basically amounts to a glorified cameo despite his top billing and box cover presence, only clouds things up more since his back story equates to about two minutes worth of screen time and he does very little to explain to us what his relationship to St. Jude is.  Had all of the gang politics of this movie been scaled back and say replaced with people getting kicked in the face, the fact that it was all so sketchy and hazy could’ve been passed off as action movie filler, but this stuff was a very important part of this movie so it would’ve benefited this film greatly had it been fleshed out a little better.  

But the fight scenes are good, at least we can say that.  Cung Le might not be the most emotive actor around, but his skill and athleticism does give him the makings of a solid action star, and for what little time Van Damme was in this movie, he was good in this movie, just wished we could’ve seen more of him, like we wished we could’ve seen even more fight sequences in this movie. 

Oh well, Van Damme will be back in another Universal Soldier directed by John Hyams in a little bit, then he’s being passed off to John’s Dad Peter for some action flick a little further down the line.  This has me thinking the Hyams family might have some dirt on JCVD. 

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