Eyes of the Roshi

Years ago in Vietnam, a young man discovers a murdered woman. He reacts about the way I suspect most people would in the situation, but those spur of the moment actions launch a tale of revenge that spans decades. Adam (Adam Nguyen), the aforementioned young man, is now a Roshi, a Grand Master of yoga, Vietnamese Karate-do, and Zen meditation, both in the movie and in life. He leads a secluded life with his pupils, or at least tries to; Ho (fellow Grand Master Hoy Lee), one of the others involved on that fateful day, keeps sending people to kill him.

One such person is Carey (Ethan Marten), who's been in a particularly nasty prison in Vietnam. Another character points out that he must be tough because he survived for years where most guys couldn't last a day, but I'm not sure he's enjoying his survival since he's now completely out of his mind in a quiet, intense sort of way. He's especially unnerving because you can't ever be sure what he's going to do next. Anyway, Ho pulls some strings to get him out and sets him on Adam's trail.

Adam, to spare his students, has banished himself to the United States. After a run-in with some bullies, he ends up working odd jobs for prosperous local landowner Bonney Bright (Mark J. Zillges) and his manager Tull (Newton Miller). But another wealthy local, Hogan Dodd (Chris Van Cleave) is in charge of the bullies, and they aren't happy with Adam's presence. Worse, Carey has traced Adam there with the help of low-level crook Marty (Jonathan Marten), and they're closing in. Marty also brings in the overconfident bounty hunter Booker (Eric Roberts, The Expendables), who wants a big score and has some plans of his own.

There's already a lot going on and I haven't even gotten to the plot with Adam's fellow employee Blanche (Amanda Dunn) and her troubled life, or mentioned mechanic Ralph (Terrance Afer-Anderson), who bonds with Adam over fixing an old truck. Despite the many characters and subplots, though, everything weaves together well, giving a convincing portrayal of the people and politics of a rural area. And while acting isn't Adam's main skill set, he brings an earnestness to his role that's absolutely charming.

Sometimes the music, of all things, was oddly intrusive, though it at least never drowned out the dialogue. But overall it's as professional as any Hollywood movie and gives the impression of a strong camaraderie among the cast and crew. They might steal their scenes -- Eric Roberts is one of the main culprits there, though Ethan Marten does a fair amount himself -- but there's always the underlying sense of this being a community, in more ways than one.

I'll go with four out of five. The acting is a bit uneven, but in general the performances are solid and the actors all fit well into their respective roles. It also helps that the script is well-written, with realistic dialogue and banter, plus several unexpected moments of humor to help make the tension more tense. It's a good action film, but also a good drama, and well worth watching.

Image: 
Booker looks at Marty like he's an idiot for the hundredth time.

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Thank you for a very fair,

Thank you for a very fair, and even-handed review. You have a good eye.

All the Best,

Ethan Marten
Eyes of the Roshi

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