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A rouge military unit hatches a plot to smuggle $35 million worth of heroin over the Mexican border into the United States. Unfortunately for them, an ex-homicide cop from Louisiana named Jack Robideaux is transferred to the border patrol unit, and he has no desire to let these actions transpire. Tackling military planning, suicide bombers and some weighty firepower, Robideaux tries to take on the cartel any way he can.

Shepherd: Border Patrol, The

Feature


I'm probably not going to do myself a favour here, but I have a confession to make: I have a real soft spot for direct-to-video action movies. Sometimes I want to see a film like  The Proposition or There Will Be Blood, and sometimes I want to spend an evening watching actors with accents of questionable origin blowing  up cars with unfeasibly large guns. Around ten years ago, this was a thankless task as I had to endure DTV 'stars' such as Don 'The Dragon' Wilson and the Ikea-type talents of Olivier Gruner. However, these days bona fide action stars from the 90s have started to appear straight to DVD, such as Wesley Snipes, a doldrums-dwelling Steven Seagal, the (I don't care, I'm gonna say it) underrated Dolph Lundgren, and Jean Claude Van Damme. This helps take the sting out of a DTV film, and you can at least pretend you're watching a theatrical movie. Guess who's just roped himself into reviewing all of the bargain bucket DTVs once my editor reads this?

Shepherd: Border Patrol, The
Some films are about love; some films are about man's inhumanity to man; some films are about the human condition. The Shepherd: Border Patrol is about ninety minutes long. More lowbrow than the Frankenstein monster's forehead, the movie at least attempts to make itself more than the usual Steven Seagal filler. Written by Joe Gayton, creator of Adam Sandler's Bulletproof, there is an effort made to put an occasional bit of colour into the script, to variable results. Not overly successful, it's nonetheless nice to see a little effort put into my DTVs, even if a writer's idea of an offbeat character quirk is to have the action hero walk around carrying a rabbit in a cage. Although the plot is serviceable, people who buy this DVD are really here for the action. On this level The Shepherd delivers. While there is nothing here to stand up to the level of a movie like Hard Target, this has probably the best action sequences from the Van Damme DVD era. Well staged and shot with more flair than usual for this type of budget fare, this is another good showing from Isaac Florentine, a genre director that always gets surprising production value from films like this and Dolph Lundgren's earlier Bridge of Dragons, and gives the impression of having double the actual budget.

Shepherd: Border Patrol, The
There are some things the budget doesn't hide. Set in Mexico but shot in Bulgaria, there is no hiding the fact that no matter how many people walk around in cowboy hats, it constantly looks like the weather is minus three degrees. Some interiors look like the paint is still drying on the wall, and the police headquarters appears to be held together by tape. It is only in the action scenes that the film shines visually, with strong lighting, unusual angles, and more solid editing than usual. Although it will never be mistaken for a Bourne movie, the film still looks slicker than a lot of the more recent Steven Seagal films for instance, but that probably has more to do with the fact that Seagal trousers $3 million of the budget before the ink on the script is dry.

Shepherd: Border Patrol, The
While other older action stars perform their straight to video output with workmanlike efficiency, Van Damme appears to be attempting to do something different. Of course, there have been times since his last theatrical release ( Universal Soldier: The Return in 1999) where his films have been absolutely dreadful, such as The Order and the utterly dire Derailed, and in them Van Damme seems uninterested. However, there have been times where Van Damme has been surprisingly involved in the films, and tried to push his acting harder, resulting in movies such as In Hell, Until Death, and Replicant that square up to his theatrical releases surprisingly well. Although still not a good actor by any stretch, the commitment is noteworthy. Probably the best of these films was Wake of Death, a film that turned out very well, and is possibly his best film since the underrated Maximum Risk in 1996.

Shepherd: Border Patrol, The
The Shepherd: Border Patrol isn't one of those pet projects, and doesn't measure up to his best films. The star seems to be sleepwalking again, and the film suffers as a result. It's hard to say where this film sits in the Van Damme filmography. It's one of his better DTV movies, but doesn't belong in the most popular, Timecop era. It also doesn't belong in Van Damme's brief surrealist period with films such as Knock Off and Double Team, which featured mini-bombs hidden in the rivets of jeans and Rob Schneider whipping Jean Claude's buttocks with an eel as the Belgian runs with a rickshaw. If anything the movie is a throwback to pre- Universal Soldier movies such as Death Warrant. Although not the most remarkable movie in the man's career, The Shepherd will go down well with the beer and pizza crowd.

Shepherd: Border Patrol, The

Video


The 1:85.1 transfer offered on this Sony disc is generally of a good standard, but occasionally slightly uneven. Daytime scenes come off nicely, depicting the dust-swept barrenness of New Mexico well, but the darker scenes are a mixed bag. Although colour schemes are well served in these scenes, there is quite a bit of grain apparent and the odd artefact, most noticeable in the opening Iraq sequences. Nothing is too distracting, and the picture is never unwatchable.

Audio


The disc offers a lively 5.1 audio mix, and is meatier than you would expect. Although the fight sequences deliver the bottom end thud a genre fan expects, the numerous gun battles are more impressive, with bullets zipping around the rears impressively. Dialogue is well balanced and doesn't suffer in the mix, and overall the audio track gives the impression that the viewer is watching something big.

Extras


Nothing at all, not even a trailer.

Shepherd: Border Patrol, The

Overall


Make no mistake, at no point while you are watching this will you get the impression that you are watching a real film, but as an undemanding ninety minutes, this delivers the action that the box promises. Genre fans will find quite a bit to enjoy in this meat and potatoes effort, but do bear in mind that I am a fan of these types of films and have rated it as such. If you are unaccustomed to this genre and intending to blind buy, shave off a point and call the movie a cautious five.


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