Friday, May 8, 2015

Premiere! Pound of Flesh

Another night, another premiere. This time at The Grove in West Hollywood for Jean-Claude Van Damme's latest, Pound of Flesh. After making friends with Popular Press Media Group and interviewing producer Kirk Shaw and director Ernie Barbarash, I snagged an invite and a V.I.P. wristband, oh la la. We arrived around 6:00 PM as I was told the 400 person screening was overbooked. There was a fan line outside and the red carpet was all set up inside the lobby. During check in I excused myself past UFC fighter Michael Bisping and boxer Victor Ortiz showed up as well. Running back and forth from Morel for happy hour, I bumped into Chuck Zito again, I introduced myself to him at Skin Trade and we chatted a minute. He's a very dapper and strong looking man. Mr. Sheldon Lettich was meeting up with us and in the lobby I ran into Carl Weathers and Aki Aleong from Pound of Flesh and The Quest. It was a bit of a mad house in the lobby but I chatted with Ernie Barbarash then spent a while talking to Vladimir Kulich aka Buliwyf from The 13th Warrior! Kulich was with I Come In Peace's Mattias Hues and they all live on the westside with Kulich being Carl Weathers' neighbor! Kulich was super cool and fun to talk to, it probably helped that I knew his work from 13th, Smokin' Aces, Breach of Trust and other randomness. I'll have to get him for a Dammaged Goods chat but it was awesome to hear about his time working on 13th, how it shot for 9 months, the dual schedule with director John McTiernan and Michael Crichton, etc.

Then I spotted Van Damme's buddy Kamel, the majong parlor operator from Double Impact among many other VD films. Introduced myself to Peter Malota, a high kicking actor and stuntman who you'd know as the guard with spurs on his boots in Double Impact as well as popping up as The Spaniard in The Quest. Born in Albania, Malota has lived in Detroit for the last 20 years and was great to talk to. I didn't spend much time looking at the red carpet but noticed Terminator 3's Kristanna Loken at one point and then the man himself, Jean-Claude Van Damme, showed up with daughter Bianca. Van Damme was looking great, slim and built in a tight white top and trademark, trademark initialed ball cap. This is the 3rd time I've seen him in person and the 2nd time it's been a complete mob. After the taping of Jay Leno's Tonight Show, people rushed Van Damme's car and wouldn't back off so they sped away. It was more of the same here with security constantly yelling for people to step back. I was in the theater hallway when this happened and the man walked right by me in a huff. The next time I saw him, you could tell he was a little flustered from all the attention. The man has some really rude and pushy fans as a friend got shoved out of the way at one point. Inside the theater I spoke to Todd Senofonte, Van Damme's longtime stunt double who also worked on PoF as he mentioned it being a tough shoot. Former wife Darcy LaPier was there as well, not sure if their son Nicolas was in attendance or not.

Kirk Shaw and Barbarash introduced the film, talking about spending a couple of years securing the script and Van Damme, the difficulties of making modest budget action films and thanking everyone in attendance along with paying tribute to co-star and martial artist Darren Shahlavi who recently passed. Chinese producer Henry Luk expressed his satisfaction with the film and project and is looking forward to making more movies soon. In a funny moment Van Damme yelled "volume, please!" as the microphones weren't working which was followed by "focus!" shouted out by none other than Charlie Sheen! The night was running late of course and we all settled in to watch Pound of Flesh, the tale of JCVD's Deacon, a kidnap and rescue specialist who gets taken by some organ harvesters in Manila. Waking up without a kidney, Deacon and his peaceful brother George (John Ralston) set out to get it back as the vital bodypart was supposed to go George's daughter. Working with Kung (Aki Aleong), an old crime buddy, they crack open the lucrative business of casing targets using hospital information, drugging them and removing their organs. The movie did a nice job of mixing the drama with the action as Deacon is a self described bastard while George is the good guy. Once upon a time, this could have been another film where Van Damme played twins.

Fights by John Salvitti are a nice change of pace for Van Damme with elbows, knees, throws, grappling and high kicks all being mixed together. Mike Leeder gets punched in the face and Van Damme does the splits while holding onto the side of a car in an applause inducing moment. You also get lots of Van Damme nudity in the opening minutes, in fact, there's more male nudity in the film than female! The man is still in great shape though. Besides the action, Van Damme gets some nice dramatic moments, talking about his backstory and challenging brother George to do whatever it takes to save his daughter. Even if that included Damme'ing his soul. There's also a few bits of humor throughout which were a welcome touch. Darren Shahlavi did a solid job as the evil enforcer Goran, playing the role with plenty of charisma and physicality. If anything, the film could have used more fighting between him and Van Damme to show off their kicks and cinematic grace.

After the film I congratulated Kirk Shaw on the film and turnout, apparently they had to rent out a second theater! He told me they were developing another project with Van Damme so we have that to look forward to. We hit the after party for a few minutes where it was just too jam packed with people. Some friends waited it out and ended up meeting Van Damme closer to midnight. While I didn't get to meet the man, I know in my heart, my soul and my gut that it will happen some day. Hopefully for a screening of Lionheart, Bloodsport and JCVD in Hollywood...It was a great evening and congratulations to Michelle, Jessica, Ernie, Kirk and everyone involved.

No comments:

Post a Comment