Starring: Cung Le, Peter Weller, Jean-Claude Van Damme
Shortly after being released from prison, a guy called Mr Hong arrives in St Jude and starts making waves among the gangs running drugs in the neighbourhood. When he rips off both the 6th Street Kings and the East Side gang, Hong comes to the attention of Mr V, a police lieutenant who provides protection to the gangs. Hong’s interference also gives the Russian gangsters, the Devil Dogs, an opportunity to take over...
Dragon Eyes is the much-anticipated follow up by Director John Hyams to the excellent Universal Soldier: Regeneration, a film which also saw Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren on top form. There were big hopes among action movie aficionados that Hyams would lead the way in legitimising DTV action movies. While Dragon Eyes doesn’t live up to the standard of his Universal Soldier movie, it does show that he has a lot of talent.
There are a lot of nice little touches, such as the different types of music the gangs play in their cars (the Russians prefer thrash metal, the others variations of hip hop), giving them a nice distinction. Then there is Hong’s nightmare sequences, where we see him chasing a hooded figure in the rain. Each time we see the nightmare it reveals more and more details of what is happening, until we finally see the whole tragedy play out.
There are three standout performances in Dragon Eyes, unfortunately Cung Le isn’t among them. He’s articulate enough, but doesn’t have much of a personality and kind of gets lost in the background of his own film. Instead we have Peter Weller as Mr V, a fedora-wearing dirty cop who provides protection to the various gangs in his town. He has a snappy, cool exterior, but goes to pieces when things go against him. Secondly there is Van Damme, relegated to a cameo role as Hong’s martial arts tutor in prison and only seen in flash-backs. He fits the mentor role very well, and also rocks a pair of dorky glasses!
Best of all though there is Eddie Rouse as Beach, a totally strung out drug addict. Beach has been targeted by Mr V who sends Hong to kill him. The scene is hilarious, as Beach sits at home with his friend doing drugs and just going absolutely mental as paranoia takes a hold and just won’t let go.
While there are some nice little fight moments throughout the film (Hong arriving in the neighbourhood sparks a rather nice confrontation), Dragon Eyes – and Hyams, and writer Tim Tori – commit the cardinal sin in making an action movie such as this: it ends in such a mediocre confrontation where everyone points guns at each other for a moment – and then ends. Such a damp squib.
Expectations were so high that this couldn’t help but be compared unfavourably with Universal Soldier: Regeneration, but there is much to like here. Just too bad the ending is such a let-down.
6 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)
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