"The Girl from the Naked Eye" is one of those movies of which I'm torn between giving an overlookable three stars and a promising four stars, because even though it excels on all levels of DTV cinema, it does so unevenly. It's one of the few movies I had actively anticipated to see, and the fact that I waited for so long probably raised my expectations to counterproductive levels...but rest assured, it's a good film. A very good film, if you're thinking strictly in terms of DTV action. Oh what the heck - have four stars, movie.
The story: when a young call girl (Samantha Streets, Alien Raiders) is mysteriously killed, her only friend (Jason Yee, Dark Assassin) must untangle a deadly urban web to find the murderer.
Be aware, folks, that this is basically an action-packed neo noir flick - something like Sin City without superhuman characters but with a lot more martial arts. It's pulled off surprisingly well, by a surprisingly good cast: Jason Yee is yards ahead of Seagal or Statham as a dramatic action hero, and Samantha Streets is no mere pretty face; and along with an expectedly good performance by Gary Stretch (Alexander) as a dirty cop and an amazingly adept portrayal by Ron Yuan (Blood & Bone) as a pimp, there's a pretty good ensemble to be had here. The script has obviously also been given a good deal of attention, as it feels more like a genuine feature nearly ready for a theatrical release than the typical made-for-DVD dreck. However, regardless of how skillfully it handles the drama throughout its first three-quarters of runtime, the finale disappoints by more or less dropping the solution of the mystery into your lap and then ending sort of unenthusiastically. I'm not sure whether the script writers (including Yee himself) ran out of steam or just couldn't get the ending filmed properly, but I was disappointed either way.
The film's trailer gave the impression that the movie's action content would be one I could really sink my teeth into, and it's true...for the most part. I've admired choreographer Ron Yuan's work ever since watching Angel of Death, and I daresay that "Naked Eye" here is his best offering to date. Sadly, it's not as consistent as I would have liked. Twenty minutes in, the film first displays its adrenaline clout via a series of brief exchanges that expertly showcase Yuan's convincing yet liberal style: the vast majority of the fights look realistic enough to actually happen, yet there's no skimping on impressive kicks. A few minor scuffles here and there keep things alive until an ultimately disappointing club brawl. I thought for sure that the movie had failed in its action content when Yee's two battles with the usually-amazing Lateef Crowder (Undisputed III: Redemption) didn't exactly do either man justice, but then the film threw a fastball at me in the form of an incredibly pleasing four-on-one fight in a hallway filmed in a single shot with a single camera - easily one of the best fights I've seen this year.
The occasional digital backdrop and digital blood during the fights give the impression that this is a cheap movie, but don't be fooled - it's classier than most things on the market with a similar budget, with swell cinematography and a memorable soundtrack. Having expected neither, I'm happy to say that while the film didn't meet some of my expectations, it outdid others just by being much more competent than anticipated. There's a good chance that people who don't view it on its terms won't have as much fun with it as me, but general martial arts fans, leisurely noir aficionados, and people who've spent the last five years waiting for a new Jason Yee vehicle should definitely be entertained.