JCVD pulls no punches


Men in their thirties are too old to watch martial arts films, states the central villain to his star struck lackey when, whilst holding up a Post Office in Brussels, they discover Jean Claude Van Damme to be one of their hostages. I wonder if men in their thirties are also too old to weep over a film that’s premise sounds like a stupid joke but turns out to be both a moving post modern confession from the titular star and a Tarantino styled dark comedy/ bank caper

Okay let’s quickly get the premise out of the way: Van Damme, sick of being offered nothing but shitty film roles and shattered from the court’s injunction from seeing his daughter, returns to Brussells (the place of his birth) to start again away from the Hollywood rot. After arriving he pulls into a Post Office to cash a cheque but moments later shots are fired leaving the local police to decide why a super star has held up the local business.

What surprises first is that JCVD is neither a farce nor an action movie. It’s a dark comedy and a drama. In fact it’s more Dog Day Afternoon than Bloodsport. The second, and by far largest, surprise is what a terrific performance Van Damme himself gives. It goes without saying that this is his personal best performance of all time but it’s better than that too. This is a great performance by any actor’s standard. Times magazine actually gave him the credit for ‘second best performance of 2008’ (above Mickey Rourke but behind Heath Ledger) and it’s good enough to make you wish that all his films were shown through the medium of French.

The performance is actually so good it’s easy to forget the genius of this film is in the writing and direction from Mabrouk El Mechri. From the opening shot (a lengthy single shot showing Van Damme in a fictional action movie) you know you’re in for something special and between director and star that’s exactly what you get.

However JCVD isn’t perfect. There is a lull in the second act where you wish they’d just get on with it but it’s a minor quibble. JCVD is a genuinely excellent film and should be enjoyed thoroughly by those who don’t really care for the star but adored by those with a special place for him in their hearts.

5 Flying Spin Kicks out of 5

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