Pound of Flesh
Director: Eddie Barbarash (2015)
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Darren Shahlavi
Find it: IMDB
You don't know it until you stop and think about it, but of all the old guard action heroes, the one doing best for himself - critically, at least - is the Muscles from Brussels himself, Jean-Claude Van Damme. Sly Stallone may have his Expendables franchise and Schwarzenegger his Terminator sequel (not to mention the promising Maggie and fun misfire The Last Stand) but none have been so quietly doing such good work as Van Damme, building up a fine collection of offbeat genre pieces and deftly cast little roles. JCVD, for instance, or the brutal In Hell. That's not even counting his film-stealing turn in The Expendables 2 or his wonderful beer adverts. Jean-Claude Van Damme may be few people's favourite action man, but there's no denying that he's one of the more versatile. Well, he tries to be, anyway.
His Straight to DVD latest is Pound of Flesh, a film best described as Taken, but with a kidney instead of Liam Neeson's daughter. Or The Merchant of Venice with... no, I can't even finish that sentence, not even in jest. Giving us a glimpse into what would have happened if Urban Legend had starred an aged action hero instead of a gaggle of dim college students, Pound of Flesh opens with poor Deacon (JCVD) naked and confused in an icy bathtub, missing a kidney. Complicating matters is the fact that Deacon's kidney was already promised to a dying relative, giving the miserable muscleman little choice but to hunt down his organ and the bastards who stole it... before it's too late.
The story is backed up by some decent action, including plenty of people being kicked in the face by Van Damme. The highlight being a bit of literal Bible bashing as Deacon doles out some serious Van Dammage to a gang of goons in a nightclub, using a Holy Bible as his weapon. The acting is surprisingly good too, with JCVD making good use of the glum actorly chops he displayed in JCVD and In Hell. It's too serious for its own good at times (occasionally playing like a morose old Crank) and its low-end budget is evident, but it's far more watchable than most films of its ilk these days. Rather this than anything Steven Seagal has done since, um, Machete, or yet another listless Taken sequel.
Look, it's not Shakespeare, but Pound of Flesh.... no, I still can't. It's Taken, but with a kidney and Jean-Claude Van Damme braining people with a Bible. What more do you need?