Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Some dude has a petition on-line to get this movie and future Van Damme movies off the DTV circuit and back into theaters. Like I’m gonna sign that mess. I LOVE Direct to Video and I’m not ashamed to say it. It will be a dark day in my life the day when Van Damme, Seagal, Snipes, Dolph, Don the Dragon or any other number of DTV studs movies stop showing up in my Netflix cue first and actually get a theatrical release. I live for bringing these movies home man. It’s bad enough that my regular duties as a film critic for Decode Magazine requires me to thrown on a coat, grab my keys and drive for miles to some unknown location to review some, more times than not, theatrical garbage but Van Damme and them care enough about me to allow me to sit in my comfy chair in the middle of my surround sound hook up and extra large screen TV with a plate of homemade buffalo wings in my lap and a tall glass of diet Iced tea by my side (or an adult beverage on occasion) and enjoy their work at my leisure. Who would want to leave that? How much do I love this stuff? When I hear that Isaac Florentine, who’s previous outing was the rather awesome ‘Undisputed 2’, is directing Jean Claude Van Damme’s latest flick, that’s like telling a film snob that Martin Scorcese is reuniting with Daniel Day Lewis with some Cate Blanchette thrown in for ‘Gangs of New York 2’.

Our films opens in Afghanistan where a group of American soldiers, led by Sergeant Benjamin Meyers (Stephen Lord) are on the offensive in search of the leader of some terrorist cel group. Now this scene was a little odd as how I really didn’t see how it played into the rest of the movie other than introducing us to our eventual bad guys, but it really didn’t give us any insight into why our soldiers turned into drug dealing felons other than perhaps to let us know that they’ve seen some bad stuff.

Anyway, this leads us to our hero Jack Robideaux (Van Damme) who has just been transferred from New Orleans to this sleepy New Mexico town that has become a hot

bed of drug trafficking activity due to it’s proximity to the Mexican border. Robideaux is a strange one as he travels with a pet bunny pretty much everywhere he goes, keeps to himself and flashbacks occasionally to what we’re pretty certain is a tortured past. His new boss, Sheriff Ramona Garcia (Natalie Robb), is none to amused with her new charge, particularly after he spectacularly kicks the collective asses of a bar full hooligans without barely getting out of his chair, but considering the issues that her department is swamped with, she’ll take the help.

As it turns out our soldiers from the first scene have become disillusioned mercenaries for hire who are facilitating the throughput of drugs into our great nation, through some rather nefarious means, and through some double dealing have managed to place themselves in position to actually take over these operations as opposed to merely assisting. This thrusts these soldiers head first into Jack’s path who for some reason is one angry ass dude and seems to have a personal vendetta against these ex-soldiers, so much so that they are convinced he’s some kind high level government operative charged with bringing them down. It’s just not all that complex bro, because it’s just one angry silent ass dude, along with his hostile female sidekick who will be knocked unconscious soon and set aside, against you and your throng of highly skilled, highly trained special ops United States government subsidized mercenaries. And you think you have chance. That makes me laugh.

‘The Shepherd: Border Patrol’ is another decent effort from Van Damme though I would say that his previous film, ‘Until Death’ was better despite the fact that Stephen Rae was in it. And as I have said previously, that amongst the three kings of the genre, though Snipes and Seagal are arguably better actors (and I do mean arguably) Van Damme has made the better movies with decent fare such as ‘Wake of Death’ though a large part of that was the presence of Simon Yam and the surprising ‘Second in Command’. We’ll casually ignore ‘The Hard Corps’.

‘The Shepherd’ pretty much delivers exactly what you would expect from an action flick with plenty of shooting, killing, explosions car crashes and the added benefit of having Isaac Florentine directing your flick which means you will have some above average fight sequences. Florentine probably choreographs a fight scene better than anybody outside of China or Hong Kong and though the fight sequences that were here were very good, I just would have liked to have seen more of them. Florentine isn’t nearly as adept at shooting pure action sequences as the gun battles often lacked spark and tended to get a bit tedious at times and it probably didn’t help that Van Damme seemed fairly bored with the whole thing, except when there was a fist fight then he snapped to life. It also helped this film that Scott Adkins was cast as one of the lead bad guys as he showed quite ably in ‘Undisputed 2’ going toe to toe with Michael Jai White that he is an athletic marvel. Though it seemed a bit unlikely that in reality my man from Brussels could kick Adkins ass, Van Damme’s name is above the title so we know how that has to go down. It’s just a matter of time before Adkins becomes his own DTV hero anyway.

Though there was some unevenness in ‘The Shepherd: Border Patrol’ and the story was a bit hole ridden as most action flick stories tend to be, it was still entertaining and was highlighted by some really nice fighting scenes. Like I’m going to sign some damn petition to stop stuff like this from being delivered to my doorstep. Like hell.

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