The incredible thing about Jean-Claude Van Damme—and by “incredible” I actually mean “sadly ironic”—is that even though his career has spanned more than twenty years with over thirty films, he hasn’t really improved as an actor. Of course, it could be worse, because he could be like Steven Segal, who is also a terrible actor, but has put on a bunch of weight, which makes him an out-of-shape aging action star with no talent to speak of. At least Van Damme is still in good shape. And even though his movies tend to suck, there is at the very least a consistency within the suckitude of films like this latest offering from the Muscles from Brussels, The Shepherd: Border Patrol.

Van Damme stars as Jack Robideaux, a former homicide cop from New Orleans that moves to New Mexico to work as a border patrol agent. We know the moment we see Robideaux that he’s different, because he has a pet rabbit in a cage that he carries with him everywhere. And we also know that there’s bound to be trouble when the local rednecks start messing with Robideaux’s rabbit. And we know there is going to be some asskicking, because you simply don’t mess with a man’s pet rabbit, especially if that man is Van Damme. So, after establishing himself as a brooding loner with a pet rabbit, who will unleash his fists of fury on anyone making disparaging remarks, Robideaux gets to work going after the bad guys. And these bad guys are especially nefarious. It seems that evil-doers destined to square-off against our hero are a team of former Special Forces unit that has turned to mercenary work smuggling heroin across the border from Mexico. These are the sort of sinister, traitorous American kill-crazy killers that give the good, patriotic American kill-crazy killers a bad name. These guys are so bad they attempt to smuggle three tons of heroin into the United States on a bus full of nuns and priests that they then use them as shields when the shit hits the fan with law enforcement. This, of course, just makes us want to see Robideaux unleash some maximum Van Damme-age on these dastardly bastards. But we want to see Jean-Claude lay waste to these pricks even more once the hackneyed story reveals a major plot twist that ups the stakes. Okay, maybe the plot twist doesn’t up the stakes that much, because if we are going to be really honest, anyone watching this movie doesn’t need much reason to want to see a little of the wham-bam-Van-Damme asskicking.

Okay, here’s the deal, I’ve seen about half the movies Van Damme has starred in over the years—which is not bragging, but simply stating the facts—and the thing I’ve discovered is that the films usually aren’t good, but they are a certain type of entertaining. I mean no one watches a Van Damme film because they want to be intellectually stimulated by fine cinema. If you want that, you watch a Chuck Norris film (just kidding!!!). No, the reason anyone watches a Van Damme movie is because they want to see a movie with a plot that is easy to understand—no big words or lengthy expository dialog—with tons of action—preferably lots of people getting the crap beaten out of them and tons of things getting blown the hell up. And The Shepherd: Border Patrol has all of that—simple words that are easy to understand, and a massive body count (and even a few too-brief glimpses of topless women).

The Shepherd: Border Patrol pretty much delivers everything you could want or expect from a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie. The film is entertaining in the same way films starring Chuck Norris can be entertaining, which is to say this is movie for guys to watch in their underwear while scratching their balls, drinking a beer, and occasionally yelling “fuck yeah!” at the screen. Van Damme gives a typical Van Damme performance—it is neither good nor bad, simply Van Damme. If there was ever an actor born to play either an ex-cop from New Orleans, or a Cajun ex-cop, or a cop from France, then it would have to be Mr. Hot Damn Van Damme. And while he doesn’t do the splits (does he even do that anymore?) he pretty much kills everyone in his path. Fans of Scott Adkins (of Undisputed II fame), will be happy to see the slugfest between him and Van Damme (at least until they realize it isn’t that well shot or edited).

There is one complaint about the film—and considering the script sucks and the acting is terrible—one complaint is taking it easy on this bad boy. Robideaux’s showdown with the sadistic leader of the mercenaries looks like it was not completely filmed, leading to an anti-climatic climax that makes you ask, “What just happened?” It almost seems like they ran out of time or money to shoot the necessary angle needed to make the scene work, and the result is a bit of a letdown. But since we are talking about The Shepherd: Border Patrol, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, the fact that the film can sustain itself for approximately 90 minutes before taking a dive, is nothing short of a miracle.

If you’re a Van Damme fan (and who isn’t?), then you will be entertained by The Shepherd: Border Patrol, which would make a great double feature with Chuck Norris’ Lone Wolf McQuade. If you are not a fan of Van Damme, then clearly you don’t have an appreciation for the finer things in life.



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