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.
The director had a good vision of the picture but tried too hard to make it more dramatic with long silent scenes, where none of the characters speak, or they just say a few words, and after a while it just gets boring as hell. As an MMA fan, it’s cool to know that Cung Le can actually use these movie maneuvers in a practical way. Cung Le might not possess the same acting skills as Van Damme, but he’s battle-tested, and surely knows a thing or two about martial arts. That said, I do think this film could be a big hit in the martial arts community. Later on they introduce another organization from the nearby town which are Russian by the sound of their accents. So they complete the full stereotype picture.
It’s always a really bad sign, when the main character could die in the movie and you wouldn’t even blink and certainly not care. This is very much the case in Dragon Eyes. Then asks Hong to clean up the town of St. Jude upon his release. Tiano’s connection to St. Jude is never mentioned. So in summary, the plot holes are quite evident. There is an interesting plot reveal near the final act, which kind of makes the movie a little bit more interesting, and then five minutes later they make an absolute mess of the whole plot. However, you come for the fights, and the fights are pretty awesome. It’s no game changer, but compared to recent direct-to-video fight offerings, this ranks with the better ones like Blood and Bone.
So, in conclusion I won’t openly bash the film for what it is doing wrong. Instead I will grade this film on what it does right. Most of it accounts for the good action scenes and the more stylish presentation, considering the low budget. Such a shame that not more time was taken with the ending and that the fights at the end could have been introduced in a superior, more logical way. While the fights themselves were still entertaining, it seems by the end of the film they just wanted to get it over with and bring it to a close. In all, Dragon Eyes is a decent diversion and despite a lack of a strong (and realistic) story, it delivers in the action department. Oh, and welcome back Van Damme. We missed you.