Friday, June 26, 2015


Jean Claude Van Damme & Kidney transplantation. Two key elements that make up the fabric that is Marcus Pinn.
Like any young boy that came up in the late 80’s/early 90’s, I grew up on Van Damme’s filmography (Cyborg, Bloodsport, Lionheart, Kickboxer, etc). And as some of you know, I had a kidney transplant back in 2007 (December 18th to be exact), so it’s really special to see one of my childhood heroes tackle kidney disease when so many other films still haven't.
It’s also pretty cool to see that Van Damme is still pulling off new innovative ways to do the splits in all of his movies...

Ever since I started doing the Kidneys On Film Series, friends often ask me whether or not kidney disease/kidney transplantation is accurately portrayed on film, and, with the exception of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, it usually isn’t (I still find it odd that Uncle Boonmee gives such an honest portrayal of kidney disease because the rest of the film is incredibly strange).

one of the few scenes from Uncle Boonmee that shows the tedious dialysis procedure...

I would never expect a straight-to-video action film to be 100% medically accurate in the vein of Human Centipede, but there are a few things that did make me throw my hands up in disbelief and go “Oh c’mon!” while watching this...

In Pound Of Flesh Jean Claude Van Damme plays a kidnap & rescue agent currently in the Philippines to give his niece one of his kidneys. But after a wild night of partying, he wakes up in a bathtub of ice only to discover that one of his kidneys has been stolen. With the help of his estranged brother and an old buddy who happens to live in the area, he now has 10 hours to get the kidney back so he can get it to his niece in time.
Only a few hours after having his kidney ripped from his body, we see Van Damme roaming the streets & kicking ass in an effort to track down his stolen organ. Now...I’m no endocrinologist but I feel like no one, not even Jean Claude Van Damme, would be able to pull off roundhouse kicks & deadly throat punches HOURS after losing a kidney in what was probably a sketchy surgery job to begin with (his kidney is stolen while he’s asleep in his hotel room which can’t be sanitary. You mean to tell me he didn’t get any kind of an infection? Isn’t that why doctors scrub their hands before an operation? I feel like kidney thieves don't wash their hands thoroughly).

On the flipside however, Pound Of Flesh touches on certain technicalities of kidney disease & kidney transplantation that I have yet to see any other movie touch on. Even with all the terrible-looking CGI gun shots, green screens & predictable dialogue, this is the first movie I’ve seen that touches on the fact that transplant recipients have to take medication for the rest of their lives.
Taking anti-rejection medication for life is not that bad. In fact it’s not bad at all. All you have to do is take 20-30 pills daily for life (depending on the dosage). If that honestly sounds like a hassle, imagine plugging your stomach, neck or arm in to a dialysis machine on a regular basis. Any time I hear of a kidney rejecting from a recipients body due to someone not taking their medication I literally have NO sympathy. In fact it pisses me off. Someone gave you an organ in order for you to live and all you had to do is take some pills at various times throughout the day. Sounds like a good deal to me. It blows my mind that some folks can’t even manage that (if you feel like complaining about the ridiculous number co-pays you're stuck with for the rest of your life...then I understand)

Pound Of Flesh also shows that just because you’re a blood relative doesn’t always mean you’re going to be an automatic match. There’s a common belief that an immediate family member can donate a kidney with no problem but that’s not always the case (I received my Kidney from my uncle by law). In the film, Van Damme’s brother isn’t a match for his own daughter (there’s a little bit more as to why that is but I won’t say anymore). 
We even see a list of foods to avoid after a trasnplant (see the image at the beginning of this review). I feel like Pound Of Flesh didn't intend to be this detail oriented in terms of kidney diseas but it just kinda worked out that way (I don't see Van Damne doing organ donor research during pre-production to get in to character).

There's an interesting turn in the final act of the film when Van Damme & company figure that his kidney has probably already been transplanted and they're now going to have to steal it back directly from the mysterious recipient's body. This made me wonder why Van Damme didn't just steal the kidneys of all the various henchmen he killed off earlier on in the movie. They're dead. They don't need their kidneys anymore. The body count by the halfway mark was at least five people. Five cadavers makes the odds a little better for his niece to find a match.
This movie also cuts itself short when it came to the time frame given to retrieve the kidney. Typically, you have somewhere between 20-30 hours to use a (properly stored) kidney once its been removed from a living body instead of the 10 hour window in Pound Of Flesh. Cutting the window in half added more tension to the movie and pushed the story along (Pound Of Flesh, which clocks in at 90-something minutes, takes place over a 36 hour period).

So while on one hand this is a typical “Jean Claude Van Damme kicking ass in southeast Asia” action movie, it still shows some respect to the kidney transplant process, and it does tug at the heart strings a little bit, so I can’t completely dismiss it.


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