Director: Ernie Barbarash
Screenplay: Joshua James
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, John Ralston, Darren Shahlavi, Leonard Gonzales, Charlotte Peters
Running Time: 100 mins
BBFC Classification: 15
Whilst visiting Manila, in order to donate a kidney to his niece, Deacon (Van Damme), falls for a young lady’s charms, (as his character is prone to doing), and ends up waking up the next morning, in a bath of ice, minus the kidney he was planning on giving to his brother’s critically ill daughter. Obviously he’s somewhat niffed by this unexpected turn of events, and the news understandably doesn’t go down well with his ultra square (and religious) brother, George, either. Contacting an old friend to help him track down the girl who set him up, Deacon, George and ex-kidnapper Kung race around the city trying to recover the stolen kidney before it’s too late.
Along the way they encounter an angry pimp - Zoltan (really!), are involved in a number of religious and moralizing arguments, learn lots of shit about each other and have numerous run-ins with assorted heavies, hired by the man who paid good money to get the kidney out of Deacon in the first place. Oh and there’s a rather obvious, but still quite cool, twist at the end.
Throughout the course of the film lots of people get shot or pummelled to within an each of their lives, Deacon earns himself some redemption points after we first find out that he’s a bit of a knob, his twitchy brother learns to calm down a little (oh, and how to shoot people), and, perhaps most importantly, we learn that Van Damme can still do the splits, albeit this time along the length of a moving car!
I have to say that Pound of Flesh is a step up in quality from some of JCVD’s more recent films and I did enjoy it. However, the film should have been better, and this, in part, is probably due to a general cheapness that can be spotted throughout. Take, for example, the special effects – in some cases the green screen effects are laughably bad and really take the viewer out of the film. Also some of the editing is pretty bad; for example, there are too many filler shots of Manila, and there’s an over use of ‘Avid Farts’ that is annoying.
On the plus side the action scenes are pretty decent, especially a few of the fights, which are nicely shot and pretty brutal. In fact the couple of fights between Van Damme and Darren Shahlavi, (here playing ex-SAS gun-for-hire, Drake), are really good and almost worth the price of admission alone. In fact Shahlavi is really good in this film and it’s a great shame that he died not long after the film was completed; a great loss to the action film industry.
Jean Claude gives a reasonable performance of a man with a shady past who wants, finally, to do the right thing for his family, and I enjoyed John Ralston’s performance as George. The rest of the cast are okay, with only Darren really standing out.
I did find some of the plot contrivances a little annoying, but this is a cheap-ish action film so I’m not going to overly worry about things like how certain characters knew about stuff that is never explained in the script!
The film’s score is pretty decent and, as I’ve said before, the fight choreography is pretty good, courtesy of John Salvitti. And it was nice to see martial arts journalist, Mike Leeder, playing a ‘heavy’ again…
Overall I think Pound of Flesh is an average Van Damme flick, but a fitting final tribute to actor/stunt performer Darren Shahlavi, who I noticed the film was suitably dedicated to at the end.
On a personal note, I was privileged to meet Darren a number of years ago (2008, I think) when I was in LA attending the annual American Film Market. Me and a mutual friend, Ross, met Mr Shahlavi in a mock English pub and shared some chips with him, or should I say he helped himself to ours since he ‘wasn’t eating’; could have fooled me Darren! A couple of nights later we attended an enjoyable midnight screening of Van Damme’s own Bloodsport together (along with Darren’s sister), which makes me wonder how excited Darren must have been to have been invited to be in a movie with one of his idols… very, is my guess! Darren, you will be missed…
Pound of Flesh has recently been released on DVD and is being distributed by Daro Film Distribution. There are no special features on the retail disc.