U.S. San-Shou kickboxing champion Jason Yee breaks out in this exciting action drama that melds martial arts films with modern-day noir.
Yee plays Jake, a man who is forced to work as a driver for high-class escorts due to a debt owed from a loan shark. He had fallen for Sandy, one of the girls who work under Simon, the owner of The Naked Eye, a gentleman’s club that also services escorts. When Jake arrives to see Sandy, she is found dead.
Seeking answers, Jake confronts Simon, who at first refuses to help. However, after a confrontation, Simon gives Jake a book that lists Sandy’s clients with numbers. While Jake goes in search of answers, Simon is forced to send his own goons in under the orders of his business partner, rogue detective Frank O’Malley.
As Jake delves closer to the truth, he remembers how he met Sandy, learning all about her wanting to become a poet. She also had fallen for someone who did not fall back for her. She ran away from home and was picked up by Simon to make money to survive. We get a glimpse of Jake and Sandy’s relationship as he seeks to find out who killed Sandy and why.
Directed and co-written by David Ren, this film could prove to be a sleeper hit amongst martial arts film fans and maybe those who love the genre of “neo-noir”. Instead of an opening credit, the title is introduced as the cover to a detective novel. The film is meant to be a showcase not only in action, but acting for Jason Yee, the man who pioneered San-Shou kickboxing in the United States.
Yee truly breaks out in this film as the troubled Jake. With the film jumping from present day to flashbacks, we delve not only into the relationship between Jake and Sandy, but we also learn Jake’s own story. We learn Jake was a compulsive gambler who lost his boss’ car in a poker game and owes a hundred grand, hence he turns to Simon to become a driver for escorts.
In the role of Simon is Ron Yuan, a veteran of many martial arts films in the early 90’s to today. The brother of fellow martial arts action star Roger Yuan, it is refreshing to see that Ron is getting a chance to showcase his acting chops rather than be typecast as a martial arts actor. Here, he plays Simon as a club owner who does whatever he can to save his own butt. The closest to action he gets in the film is perhaps one of the funniest love scenes seen since the raunchy comedies of American Pie and Van Wilder.
There are a few cameos. One is from the likes of Face/Off’s Dominique Swain, who plays Alissa, an escort who actually gives advice to Jake as how to track down the potential murderer of Sandy as she is a fan of detective novels. The other is a quick minute cameo from adult film star Sasha Grey, who plays an escort Jake meets in the elevator of the first big action scene. She only resorts to two lines and watches Jake beat up some goons before her screen time is done with.
Ron Yuan served as the action director of the film. He truly didn’t want to use too much flashiness in his choreography but use a more brutal, street self-defense style for Jake. As Jason Yee is a San-Shou champion, Yuan utilized Yee’s skills well on film with Yee using grappling, front stomp kicks, and haymaker punches to good use. The flashy part comes in not one but two fights pitting Yee against the awesome Lateef Crowder, who plays one of Simon’s top goons.
However, one highlight of the film pays tribute to the 2003 Korean film Oldboy. For those who have not seen the film, there is a pivotal action scene where the protagonist fights goons in a hallway armed with only a hammer in a long-take sequence. In this film, Jake takes on four rogue guards in a hallway. This fight consists of two long takes. The first shows Jake defeated and the second starts with Jake getting back up to “finish the job”. He does this both unarmed and at times, with a nightstick.
The Girl from the Naked Eye is definitely a well-made mix of martial arts action film and neo-noir. Jason Yee definitely proves himself as a potential big action star and it is great to see Ron Yuan in more straight acting. The film recently was released in theaters in limited release. If you have the opportunity to see it, check it out as this is quite a pretty good film.
WFG RATING: B+
Naedomi Media presents a Lifted and Mu-Yee production in association with MiniFlix Films. Director: David Ren. Producers: Jason Yee, Ron Yuan, and Henry Mu. Writers: Larry Madill, David Ren, and Jason Yee. Cinematography: Max Da-Yung Wang. Editing: Greg Babor and Richard Halsey.
Cast: Jason Yee, Samantha Streets, Ron Yuan, Dominique Swain, Gary Stretch, Jerry Ying, Sasha Grey, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Chris Ufland, Assaf Cohen, James Lew, Pete Antico, Lateef Crowder, Woon Young Park, Art Hsu.