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Movie Review: JCVD

May 6, 2009

Jean Claude Van Damme can act, for reals

What if I told you Jean Claude Van Damme is indeed back?  You would probably think that he has never been here before, right.

I have been wanting to watch this movie for about six months, when it became the buzz of the film-nerd community after it played at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival. I learned of it on some film podcasts, and was astonished to hear that this may be a comeback  a la Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) for Jean Claude Van Damme.  To my delight, instead of having to wait to have it mailed to me by Netflix, they also made it available to watch instantly.  So I watched it this weekend.  I was infuriated that the version supplied to me was dubbed (I hate, hate, hate dubbed movies) which almost destroyed the experience for me. Not cool, Netflix. I find dubbing distracting and annoying, and it can inherently change the meaning of the dialogue.

2864366751_d679bcbe33However, I plowed through, and was glad I did.  I always like to see a star redeem himself, and Van Damme does that quite effectively in this movie. Jean Claude plays himself.  We find in the opening scenes that he is fighting for custody of his kids, who don’t want to live with dad because the other kids make fun of his movies, and they are embarrassed. His movies are paraded in front of the court as proof of him being an unfit parent due to the violence he peddles. He knows he is a joke.  He’s trying to procure a film role, but ultimately loses it to nemesis Steven Seagal, because Seagal is willing to cut off his trademark ponytail.  Basically, he’s a sad sap.

He travels to his home country Belgium where he becomes involved in a bank robbery, which the police mistakenly believe he is responsible for. In a art-imitating life turn, hordes of fans gather outside the bank to cheer on their international “hero”  Van Damme.  There is a monologue delivered by  Van Damme  that is almost uncomfortable to watch, because you are not sure how much of it is acting and how much is real.

If you were ever a true JCVD fan, this movie should delight you. As for this movie snob, I humbly make an oath to expand my horizons.

If you watch this, I recommend getting the subtitled version.


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