(On Cable TV, April 2013) Following a familiar formula isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but incompetently following a familiar formula seems even more inexcusable than in trying something new. So it is that cheap direct-to-video Dragon Eyes manages to botch a dirt-simple “stranger comes to clean up town” plot template. It’s not even particularly subtle in its presentation, as a sturdy asian protagonist walks in the middle of a black/latino gang-infested Louisiana neighborhood and starts picking fights with the local criminal element. We eventually learn the back-story, but what initially seems like directorial stylishness eventually reveals itself to be pure incoherence. Simply put, Dragon Eyes goes through the motions so automatically that crucial plot developments are forgotten and simply aren’t shown on-screen: the result is a story that is carried forward on pure assumed plotting knowledge: The viewers have to fill out missing scenes in their heads, since what is shown on-screen seeks to skip ahead (or back) without delivering the basic narrative building blocks. From time to time, various visual flourishes keep our interest: Some action scenes (including a few lengthy fighting shots) are directed with some ambition, the opening credits are fine, some stylish freeze-frames introduce the characters (alas, without much final impact) and a few of the actors are clearly too good for the material given to them: Cung Le manages to remain intriguing as the dull protagonist, but Jean-Claude Van Damme steals the film as a grizzled mentor, while Peter Weller has a bit of fun as a criminal kingpin, and Crystal Mantecón is beautiful enough to make an impression despite a woefully underwritten love-interest role. Dragon Eyes quickly becomes an irritant, a film that doesn’t quite know how to tell a basic story despite limiting itself to the barest bones of a narrative. It begins in confusion, advances in incoherence and finishes without a satisfying wrap-up. It ultimately doesn’t distinguish itself from countless other basic low-budget action films except for the fact that it doesn’t even deliver minimal viewing satisfaction.