POUND OF FLESH (2015)
Directed by Ernie Barbarash
Directed by Ernie Barbarash (Falcon Rising), POUND OF FLESH is pretty much a real-life telling of Charlie The Unicorn, but where Charlie didn’t get to sample the delights of Candy Mountain, here Deacon (Jean-Claude Van Damme) does get some sweet sugar in the form of English ‘damsel-in-distress’ Ana (Charlotte Peters) before having his kidney taken from him without consent. With the aid of his estranged brother George (John Ralston) and his old associate Kung (Aki Aleong), Deacon will put his expert combat skills to good use to retrieve his stolen organ to save his terminally ill niece.
It’s great to see Jean-Claude Van Damme back in a lead role and as always, he’s a charismatic presence that always demands to be observed. Whilst his martial arts skills may not be as slick as they were in his younger days, JCVD can still give as good as he gets as the audience is treated to plenty of fight scenes in a variety of locations from a nightclub to an undergound fighting tournament and even through a car window. We get JCVD’s trademark splits too although not in the way you would expect which will please martial arts fans who’ve come to expect the technique in all his movies.
Though the film isn’t short of action, POUND OF FLESH feels empty in some ways. The lack of character building or meaningful time spent with the characters leaves them nothing more than 2D personas following their scripted agenda. The action, whilst thrilling, often feels short and rushed, as if too much is trying to be crammed into the movie, and therefore there’s not much time left to process the events or build the story between the action sequences. Away from that though, the action scenes will surely entertain and please martial arts fans with some terrific brawls. The late Darren Shahlavi seems to relish the role of former SAS officer cum hired baddie Drake and the face off between Shahlavi and Van Damme is rather welcomed.
POUND OF FLESH doesn’t quite hit the high notes of other B-movie martial arts movies but the thriller elements combined with the fight scenes work well enough to tell the story. The performances are a mixed bag, as is the script, but if you switch your brain off and just enjoy it for what it is, an action thriller, then you’ll be kept entertained.