The Girl from the Naked Eye, 2012.
Directed by David Ren.
Starring Jason Yee, Samantha Streets, Gary Stretch, Dominique Swain, Ron Yuan and Sasha Grey.
When his call girl friend is murdered, a man risks everything to uncover the truth and exact his revenge.
When Sin City came out seven odd years ago, there was a glut of similarly styled copycat films. The Girl from the Naked Eye borrows heavily from Sin City. It’s a low budget, hard bitten, hard edged, noir tale of murder and revenge in the seedy underbelly of prostitution, gangsters, and corrupt law officials. Like most films that fly in the slipstream of a trend setter (not that Sin City was particularly original), The Girl from the Naked Eye is a pale imitation. Its cheapness too does little to help successfully mimic the look of Sin City. They’re clearly inspired by the look but don’t go as far as to make it a CG heavy affair (thankfully). The little CG boosts in the film (mainly backgrounds) aren’t very good, while the film is often amateurishly lit. There’s noir, there’s harsh lighting and then there’s just poor lighting, which is what makes for the majority of this.
Jason Yee stars as Jake. He works as a driver who escorts prostitutes to and from their “Johns.” When his friend, Sandy, a pro, is murdered he sets out to track down her killer and avenge her death. That’s as complex as the story gets really, but in a film like this we’re waiting for the action set pieces. Yee’s portrayal as Jake is just as rote as the screenplay (which he also co-wrote). It’s ridiculously formulaic, from the dialogue to the posturing, and the constant scowling to the lacklustre narration. We’ve seen it all before but mostly far more accomplished.
The supporting cast are average too. Samantha Streets stars as Sandy, the 16 year old prostitute befriended by Jake. She’s only in the film in flashback but Streets is the standout performer, managing to make her character likeable. She looks a lot older than 16, but never mind! The rest are unable to put a memorable stamp on their barely etched characters. Largely it’s a grouping of foes for Yee to beat the shit out of and nothing more. The most well-known person in this would be Dominique Swain (Face/Off) whose glorified cameo is rather strange and acts simply to shift on the plot when it needs a jolt. It’s a prime example of poor screenwriting to have some random character with no real narrative point other than to shift gears in the movie. She has no connection to any other character, she’s just random, yet sparks movement towards the finale that otherwise wouldn’t have come.
The action is the saving grace here, though you’ll see many better examples of choreographed fisticuffs. Still, Yee is a decent on-screen fighter, even if his tough demeanour is far too put on and far less natural than many of the action star specialists. There are some decent fight sequences, particularly a one-take shot near the end that’s clearly inspired by Oldboy. As for the few shootouts, they’re less effective, lacking in punch.
Overall The Girl from the Naked Eye is a passable entry into the straight-to-video action vaults. There have undoubtedly been far worse, but also far better. It’s just all too hackneyed and, with the exception of some haphazardly crammed in moments of poorly conceived, quirky humour, it’s just all too po-faced and serious.
The Girl from the Naked Eye is released in the UK on February 27th.