Jean Claude Van Damme might be the only guy on earth unaware that waking up in an ice-filled bathtub isn’t a case of “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” but a very popular urban legend about kidney theft.
In Pound of Flesh, upon waking up in his apartment, the tub scenario isn’t enough to key him in, but his curiosity is finally piqued by the blood on the sheets.
Manilla is the setting for this moody 2013 thriller as Asia’s where you go to film when you’re no longer a box office draw. And that’s a shame because Van Damme still brings the goods. He’s a fine Cabernet to Steven Seagal’s two-buck chuck. His later career choices are surprisingly solid while Seagal’s movies are as cringe-worthy as a drunken wedding toast (though often not as well-written). [Check out our podcast, Episode 72, of Seagal and Stone Cold Steve Austin in Maximum Conviction].
JCVD is Deacon (gotta love the guy’s various anglo character names) who beats up a pimp beating up a girl, takes the girl to a nightclub then to his apartment, and wakes up one organ short of a full slate.
“I want it back,” he says. Of course.
The perps leave him all the meds he’ll need to convalesce, as well as a strange clue in the form of an Ace of Spades on the shelf (RIP, Lemmy from Motorhead).
The narrative is told in flashbacks like some kind of black market organ version of The Hangover. And Deacon starts to put things together with the help of friends and his brother, a professor fluent in Tagalog. And this “Deacon” offers some righteous beatings! In one bar scene, he clubs a thug over the top of the head and spears another one’s eye out with The Holy Book. Goddamn Van Damme!
The fight scenes are pretty badass, despite some ridiculous CG blood. As we said, JCVD still delivers. And unlike other action flicks, people here start recording things on their phones when fists fly.
While he lays waste to the Filipino underworld he offers up choice action-y zingers like, “If you lie to me, I’ll come back. And I’ll be in a bad mood.”
Don’t call it a come back! JCVD never left.
*** (out of 5)
[JCVD fans, check out our Double Impact podcast]