Starring: Samantha Streets, Jason Yee, Ron Yuan, Gary Stretch, Sasha Grey, Lateef Crowder
Down-at-heel bruiser Jake accepts a job from Simon to be the driver for one of his prostitutes, a young woman called Sandy. After some initial antagonism, Jake and Sandy become close friends and start having dreams that stretch beyond their current horizons. When Sandy suddenly turns up dead, Jake goes on the warpath, relentlessly searching for her killer.
The Girl from the Naked Eye is something of a Dark Horse. I was intrigued by the cast, which included Ron Yuan (also the film’s action choreographer – more on that below), Lateef Crowder (Tom Yun Goon and Undisputed 3) and Gary Stretch (the mad but entertaining King Maker). So that was enough to get the film into my player, but I admit I was almost immediately put off by the hard-boiled narration style.
This put the film into the same category as The Perfect Sleep, a film I really wanted to like but was obstructed by the deadpan narration which never stopped. I prefer The Girl from the Naked Eye because, for one thing, it sets out its stall right from the opening shot of an old fashioned anthology magazine and ends on the same note. Secondly, the narrator actually shuts up once in a while.
The acting isn’t particularly amazing but solid enough. Newcomer Jason Yee is very good as Jake, while Samantha Streets is very sympathetic as the naive runaway Sandy. Ron Yuan is good as Simon while Gary Stretch is okay as the corrupt police lieutenant. The two things which help knock this film up a few notches are the direction and the fight scenes. David Wren brings a lot of style to his film without relying on overly flashy techniques. An early-on gunfight sees the use of dolly tracking shots to give some great fluidity. He’s not afraid to shoot fight scenes from a distance, and utilises long takes to allow the action to flow gracefully. Ron Yuan has already been mentioned in dispatches on our site (Angel of Death) and once again produces a number of excellent close-quarters style fight scenes. The film boasts two stand-out scenes. The first is the second of two fights with Lateef Crowder. Jason and Lateef have a brief scuffle early on, but the return match is excellent as Lateef shows how his Capoeira skills cope in a cramped hotel corridor. The second standout sequence sees Jake take on four security guards, a scene perfectly scored with the theme from Bolero.
Those two scenes are enough to make this one of my favourite films of the year, but the script is also well written, containing some good dialogue exchanges, revelations and off-kilter nuances to give the whole thing some real flavour.
At first I thought this was going to be over-stylised like Bunraku or The Warrior’s Way, but this is a bit more grounded than those films, albeit still a hard-boiled film noir. Jason Yee is a name to look out for and Ron Yuan continues to impress with some great action scenes.
Highly recommended for fans of well-made fight scenes.
8 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)
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