Directed by: Isaac Florentine
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Scott Adkins, Natalie J. Robb, Gary McDonald, and Todd Jensen
Jack Robideaux (Van Damme) is a cop from New Orleans who comes to the small town of Columbus, New Mexico to start on their border patrol. It seems a gang of drug smugglers, including Karp (Adkins), are made up of former U.S. Soldiers gone bad. Now Jack, his partner Billy (McDonald) and Captain Ramona Garcia (Robb) have to get to the truth. Additionally, some folks in this dusty ol’town don’t take kindly to newcomers, so Jack, and his pet rabbit, also named Jack (there’s an explanation) must defend himself there from the locals. After some twists and turns in the plot, we finally get to the fight scene between Scott Adkins and Van Damme that we all want. Will human Jack and rabbit Jack get what they came to New Mexico for?
We’re happy to announce that The Shepherd is a winner! Overall this is a solid, entertaining, quality movie that delivers the goods. And why wouldn’t it, as it was directed by the capable and dependable Isaac Florentine, whose name is becoming synonymous with satisfying action creations. This movie really should have gone to the theater in America. Sure, there’s at least one scene that’s a bit too long, and there might be some other quibbles here and there, but this movie is prime JCVD all the way.
Naturally, Van Damme plays yet another guy with a French name. This harks back to past JCVD efforts, while references in the movie to hurricane Katrina, the war in Afghanistan, and of course, the issues surrounding the U.S./Mexico border firmly bring The Shepherd into current, relevant territory. It is somewhat lame that the bad guys are former U.S. Soldiers - what, they couldn’t think of any other type of person that could be evil? - but we get it, they are “rogue” agents and all that. But it’s puzzling why that’s the place the writers went to.
They even find time to sneak in some Punchfighting! Sure, it’s unnecessary, but who cares? It’s just fun. Of course, there’s the prerequisite torture scene, which is just another excuse for shirtlessness. We love Scott Adkins, and he does a good job as one of the baddies, but we think he makes a better good guy. Someone we’ve always lovingly compared Adkins to is Gary Daniels, and it would be weird seeing him as a baddie (even though it has happened, mainly in the earlier part of his career). That aside, Adkins is a talented martial artist and has strong screen presence. His fight with Van Damme gives you what you want. They would team up again in the disappointing and inferior Assassination Games (2011). Also Van Damme has a pet turtle in that movie. Either a rabbit or a turtle, and Scott Adkins. But that’s where the similarities between the two movies end.
The Shepherd just goes to show that if you use Van Damme right, he’s still a viable star. This can firmly be placed in Van Damme’s win column.
Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett