EXCLUSIVE: Mixed martial arts star Cung Le has been set to star in Dragon Eyes, an MMA-themed action crime drama that Joel Silver’s Dark Castle is producing with Courtney Solomon’s After Dark Films. Shooting begins next month in Baton Rouge. Cung Le plays a myst rious man who comes from an impoverished part of New Orleans to unite two warring gangs against the corrupt lawmen who’ve been using them. It’s a modernization of the Kurosawa film Yojimbo. Tim Tori wrote the script.

Cung has been World Middleweight Strike Force champion, and is a former national champ in Shotokan Karate. Since signing with Gersh, he has starred in the Chinese language pic Bodyguards and Assassins, and recently starred opposite Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster in Pandorum.

Dragon Eyes is the second significant project I’ve written about in two weeks revolving around mixed martial arts, following Sony Pictures Entertainment signing on to develop an Allan Loeb-scripted pic that casts Kevin James as a teacher who gets in the Octagon to help his cash-strapped school. Once assailed as “human cock fighting” by Senator John McCain, mixed martial arts has eclipsed boxing in popularity, and I guess it was inevitable that an onslaught of films would follow. I fear that this will be less like the golden era of 70s karate films that followed Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon, and more like the short lived flurry of forgettable 90s films that revolved around that sexy Brazilian “forbidden dance” known as Lambada. Prove me wrong, guys!