Dragon Eyes is the first movie in which UFC /MMA fighter Cung Le takes on a leading role. Backed up by Van Damme’s big name, he manages a nice balance between himself and Van Damme’s character to produce a pretty solid martial arts action flick.
So Le plays Ryan Hong, an ex con who arrives in the small town of St Jude Square. Overrun by gangs and corrupt cops, Hong arrives almost like a gunslinger in a western film – ready to clean up this one horse town!
Hong enters the town and kicks the asses of many of the local gang members, and plays them against each other before managing to position himself well and truly up the ladder, where he can make a difference amongst the illegal activity in the neighbourhood – until his intentions are discovered. From there he is forced to fight head on the take apart any crim in his way.
But that’s not the real story.
While these simple ‘action movie’ style events are moving forward, the true story is working backward.
Why is Hong doing this? What’s in it for him?
We slowly learn of his past, why he was arrested, and why Van Damme’s character Tiano has such a big influence on him. Van Damme plays Hong’s mentor in prison – training him to fight and teaching him the ways of fighting. But this leads to more questions – who the hell is Tiano and why is he such a skilled yet morally influenced man trying to help this prisoner.
I don’t want to give those answers away but the movie eventually reveals them and creates a pretty decent drive behind Cung Le’s character to make a difference as he tries to better himself as a person by taking charge.
Cung Le as a leading man
Cung Le isn’t tall dark and handsome – he’s a short guy, not the typical Hollywood handsome and he doesn’t have the most impressive physique you’ve ever seen. In saying that – he look like a real tough guy – probably because he is!
To fill in the uninformed – Cung Le is a martial arts actor, but he’s also a top MMA fighter who competes in the UFC. He’s taken out big names like Richard Franklin, Patrick Cote and Frank Shamrock. You’ll even notice and appearance by Dan Hendersen in this film! His authentic fighting skills combined with a pretty solid onscreen style make him awesome to watch.
Picture perfect people getting into these situations and having any real skill is pretty ‘Fairy Tale’ – Cung Le offers a realistic character in Hong who is short solid and ready to tear apart his opponents – making the movie a little more believable.
As an actor his performance isn’t exactly deep but he handles what role he has in this film pretty well. I hope to see him in lead roles more often.
Oh yeah, this movie has Jean Claude Van Damme!
If you’re a JCVD fan, then don’t rush to see this as his latest kick ass role. Van Damme plays more of a background role which compliments Cung Le’s very well. Tiano (JCVD’s character) appears by way of flash backs and offers useful fighting techniques and advice on life in general to make Hong the warrior he is before entering.
I think Van Damme does a good job of playing a secondary role which aids in bringing Cung Le’s ability to a wider audience.
The Action & Martial Arts
The action is pretty good – but not the best you’ll see.
If you want to see someone kicking ass in a realistic way you’ll enjoy this movie. Cung Le’s fight scenes show him taking out small groups but copping some punishment in the process. As a good friend of mine once said “I’ve never seen Jackie Chan goin off down town smashing groups of people without getting hit” – that’s more of a movie scene than a real fight.
Hong will take out a guy, cop a good hit from another guy, or even a few but fight back with more powerful martial arts movements and defeat his opponents with superior technique in a realistic way (somewhat). The fights are entertaining, and spread reasonably well throughout the film. A few more fight scenes, especially at the end of the film, however, would have made it much better in my opinion.
A Decent film done very well with a good performance by both Cung Le and Van Damme. I definitely recommend it.
On Blu Ray –
Region A (US & Canada)Dragon Eyes [Blu-ray]
Region B (UK, Australia, New Zealand, Europe etc)
Dragon Eyes [Blu-ray]
On DVD –
Region 1 (US & Canada)
Dragon Eyes on DVD
Region 2 (UK, Europe, etc)
Dragon Eyes [DVD]
Region 4 (Australia, New Zealand, etc)
Dragon Eyes on DVD