Tuesday, July 18, 2017
JCVD-A-THON: The Shepherd: Border Patrol (2008)
Isaac Florentine has worked his way up through the world of low budget action movies. He made films with reliable B-list stars like Olivier Grunner, Antonio Sabata Jr., Gary Daniels and Dolph. (In addition to directing countless episodes of “Power Rangers” and “WMAC Masters.”) Florentine would find his brawny muse in the form of Scott Adkins, turning each other into cult favorites in the process. It was probably inevitable that Florentine would make a film with Van Damme. Despite the unwieldy title, “The Shepherd: Border Patrol” is another movie that is better than its direct-to-video release would suggest.
Along the Mexican/American border, something fishy is going on. A rogue group of disenfranchised Iraq War vets have taken over the local drug business, driving out the Mexican cartels. They outfit their drug mules with explosive vests, increasing the danger. The border patrol brings in Jack Robideaux, a New Orleans cop, to investigate. Turns out Robideaux has a personal grudge to settle with the drug dealers. His quest for vengeance soon takes him to Mexico, where he and his partner are right in the middle of the cartel's business. Much fighting and shooting ensues.
As a Van Damme movie, “The Shepherd” is similar in tone to “Wake of Death.” Jack Robideaux is a tired guy. His failures and mistakes – specifically the death of his daughter – weigh heavily on his mind. He doesn't know if it's possible to find any inner peace but avenging this mistake is his best chance. However, “The Shepherd” is way more upbeat than “Wake of Death” and the like. First off, Van Damme has a pet bunny to keep him company. Yeah, the rabbit is connected to his dead daughter. However, the contrast of Van Damme's serious character and his cutesy bunny rabbit lightens the mood considerably. He also tells a handful of jokes, when refusing a bribe from a crook, going on a quasi-date with a drunk lady, or getting coffee spilled on his shirt. It's not Van Damme's best role but does play on his built-in charm more than some of his other recent films.
Trying to find some sort of political or social statement in low budget action flicks like this is a fools' errand. However, it's clear something is going on inside “The Shepherd's” head. There's plenty of room in the story for a more traditional, exploitative tale of “good American cops fight evil Mexican drug cartel.” Making the villains American soldiers changes the context. Florentine seems to linger on this decision, forcing American flags and other patriotic imagery into the foreground. Of course, the film's hero is played by a Belgium, while his female sidekicks is of mixed heritage. Is “The Shepherd” some sort of comment on the frequently hypocritical way Americans treat people from other countries? I'm not sure but it certainly makes the film interesting.
[THE VAN DAMMAGE: 3 outta 5]
[X] An Entire Fight, Sans Shirt
[X] Close-Up Screaming
 Jump-Kicks A Guy, Through Something
[X] Performs Either a Split or a Spinning Roundhouse Kick