SYNOPSIS: St. Jude Square is a neighborhood living in fear and despair. The dueling gangs of local kingpins Dash and Antuan terrorize the streets and the citizens live without a shred of hope... until mysterious stranger Ryan Hong (Cung Le) arrives in town. He begins to play one gang against the other using his unparalleled martial arts skills, and by calling on the teachings of his brilliant mentor Tiano (Jean-Claude Van Damme) to find the strength to battle back. However, just as he begins to bring the community under control, Hong is confronted by Mr. V, the town's ruthless and corrupt police chief. At first Mr. V is impressed by Hong's skill, but soon sees Hong as a threat to his regime, and the two warriors are locked in a head-to-head battle, pitting the fear and corruption of Mr. V's regime versus the new beginning Hong represents for the people of St. Jude Square.


Despite the fact that Jean Claude Van Damme received top billing on the DVD cover, he is definitely not the main star in this direct-to-video release. The leading man is Cung Le, an American Vietnamese who is an MMA champion and UFC fighter in real-life and starred in bit roles in movies such as “Tekken” and “Bodyguards and Assassins”. “Dragon Eyes” marks his first attempt at being the main star, producer and action choreographer and boy it’s a terrible effort to say the least.

Written by Tim Tori and helmed by John Hyams who revived the dying “Universal Soldier” franchise with the much applauded “Regeneration”, fails to hit the mark with this crime thriller that screams generic and boring at every turn. Cung Le plays Hong, a mysterious stranger who arrives in a corrupted neighbourhood run by drug dealing gangs and a much worse police force led by the ruthless Mr V (Peter Weller from the original Robocop), Hong is determined to bring St Jude back on track. Guided and mentored by Tiano (Van Damme) while serving his time in prison, will Hong’s finally find his own redemption here?

There isn’t much of a story to begin with for an 89 minutes movie, the plotting is repetitive (you get a lot of the usual gang rivalry, cop dealings and stuff like that) and the subplot regarding Hong’s crime is never elaborate further. With the exception of Weller hamming it up as the gun-toting Mr V, there are zilch performances to talk about. Cung Le fares the worst with his monotonous, one-off expression to carry the entire movie. Van Damme whose role only occurs in flashbacks fails to leave much of an impression either and probably you might end up tickled by his fortune cookie one-liners.   

The biggest problem with “Dragon Eyes” however lies in the action choreography. While many can accept a low-budgeted movie with admirable action sequences, this one delivers the action in spades but none of them matches the intensity and creativity of a typical Hong Kong martial-arts flick. Cung Le obviously can joust; grapple and pound his way through and take on at least ten men at one go yet the numerous no holds barred fights just doesn’t sustain one’s attention if the choreography is formulaic. Tagged along with an anti-climatic ending which hastily conclude the movie, the movie is a letdown.

Van Damme for sure deserved better and for a 52 year old, he still has the moves to kick some serious ass while Cung Le on the other hand needs to work with better filmmakers if he wants to secure a place in the action movie arena. This is an overall disappointing effort considering the names involved.


A Trailer Gallery is included


The digitally shot and highly processed visual looks respectable on the DVD while the stereo track hardly show much activity except the accompanied rap music.



Review by Linus Tee