Random Rewind: JCVD
JCVD (2008) is a crime drama film starring action star Jean-Claude Van Damme. This is no normal Van Damme, it’s actually Jean-Claude Van Damme flexing his acting chops instead of his muscles. The film takes bits of Van Damme’s real personal life into a fictional setting to deliver a something that you might not expect from Van Damme but something that must be seen.
In JCVD Jean-Claude Van Damme is playing himself as an aging action movie star that is now far from his career peak in the 90s. He has trouble getting movie roles, he is in the middle of a custody battle for his daughter with his ex-wife, and he is struggling just to keep his life together. Van Damme decides to take a break from it all and returns to his hometown Brussels in Belgium. Back home he is recognized by the locals and is well received being an actor from Belgium who made it big time internationally. On the way to the post office to receive a wire transfer he takes some pictures and signs autographs for some fans and makes his way to the post office. Just prior to Van Damme’s arrival and unbeknownst to him the post office is being robbed. Van Damme becomes one of their hostages and is forced to help the robbers block the windows. While moving some furniture against the window a gunshot is fired in the post office getting the attention of the fans that Van Damme just signed autographs for outside. These fans see Van Damme in the window and assume it is Van Damme who is robbing the post office. Cops are called, the media arrive and it becomes a circus. Inside the robbers see this as an opportunity and use Van Damme’s celebrity status to shadow their activities.
In any other Van Damme movie, Jean-Claude would round house kick his way to victory, but in this film he is just trying to stay alive. A great premise for a film and it is crafted in a way that keeps you on the edge of your seat until the final conclusion.
Jean-Claude Van Damme does an exceptional job here. Usually a scapegoat (and unfairly so) for everything that was wrong with cheesy action films in the 90s, Van Damme makes a comeback in an unexpected way. Don’t expect big action, crazy fighting scenes and explosions galore. What you get in this film is emotion and Van Damme in this movie is someone you feel emotionally attached to. You really don’t know what to expect and will be surprised.
There is one scene that makes the movie and it is when Van Damme has an emotional breakdown. This scene can be difficult to watch for some and makes you really feel for Jean-Claude Van Damme. The man delivers and makes the transition from action hero to actor in a way few action stars have ever achieved. The fact that the movie uses some of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s real life personal demons shows the chances that Van Damme was willing to take to make this all gel together and fills me with a new respect for the man.
Go into this movie with an open mind and you’ll be pleased. Put aside all preconceived notions about Jean-Claude Van Damme and the type of movies he makes and just enjoy this film. The movie must be seen in its original language of French. There is some English but the vast majority is in French. There is a complete English dub, but it’s terrible and robs the movie of everything I’ve written above.
Very highly recommended.