The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum

JCVD (2008) **

After months of hearing the hype surrounding this movie, I popped in JCVD hoping that this would finally be the flick that would resuscitate Jean Claude Van Damme’s ailing career and rescue him from the exile of Direct-to-DVD action flicks.  What I got was a wildly uneven and oddball movie that probably would’ve played better as a Saturday Night Live skit.  Still, I have enormous respect for JCVD (the man, not the movie) for really putting himself out there and trying something new.


The premise has Jean Claude Van Damme playing Jean Claude Van Damme (albeit a slightly exaggerated version).  His career is in the toilet, he’s flat broke, and he just lost custody of his daughter.  He moves back to his home of Brussels and tries to make a fresh start when he inadvertently winds up in the middle of a hostage situation.  The police are idiots and think he’s the mastermind behind the crime because the robbers always force him to talk on the phone to the hostage negotiator.  Eventually after a lot of sitting around, JCVD finally does something semi-heroic and stops the bad guys.


On paper, the movie sound like it’s going to be The Player Meets Dog Day Afternoon.  The problem is that the hostage plot is kinda lame (it wouldn’t cut it in one of JCVD’s Direct-to-DVD movies) and runs at odds with the film’s more surrealistic touches.  I appreciate the fact that Van Damme is trying to branch out and try something different but the story is just too slight and low key to make much of an impact.  Although I enjoyed a lot of the good-natured jabs at Van Damme’s career, the film really lacks the consistent sardonic wit needed to sustain the movie’s 97 minute running time.  Also, there’s hardly any “real” action in the flick and in reality, JCVD roundhouse kicks only one guy.  The incredibly stupid Funny Games style ending doesn’t do the movie any favors either.


There is some stuff here though that will make this a must see for Van Damme fans.  Like the excellent opening scene in which Van Damme Kung Fus and blows away dozens of extras for his latest movie.  What’s especially impressive about this scene is that it’s all done in one take.  Then there’s the scene where Van Damme floats out of the “real” movie and gives a touching six minute monologue to the audience.  At one point he even apologizes about the quality of the movie!  Man, why didn’t he do that for Maximum Risk?


The real surprise here though is that the man can actually act.  Speaking in his native tongue, Van Damme expresses more emotion and heart in one monologue than he did in his entire career.  While the movie may not be one of his best (Heck, it’s not even as good as such middle-of-the-road Van Damme flicks like Double Team.  Hey, remember the scene in Double Team in the Coliseum where Mickey Rourke stepped on a land mine and then the tiger pounced on him and he took his foot off the mine so he and the tiger could blow up together and die as one?  That shit was awesome.), I do hope at least that directors will start noticing Van Damme for his acting chops after seeing him in this film.


Van Damme’s “reel” director gets the best line of the movie when he says, “Just because he brought John Woo to America doesn’t mean he can sandpaper my dick!”

Tags: action, j, kung fu, van damme
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