I’m about to do something that I never thought possible. I am going to recommend you watch the latest movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. After a lifetime of mediocre films (some are watchable but many are not) Jean-Claude has proven himself to be an actor...and a damme good one at that (excuse the pun)
As you can imagine I set out to watch this movie with the understanding that it was more of an autobiography
than a standard film. It shows the strength of the movie when you cannot differentiate between what is real and what is not. JCVD manages to do this, and do it very well. You are unsure as to where the real Van Damme ends and the character of Van Damme begins
The film establishes Jean-Claude Van Damme, who is playing himself in an alternate reality
, as an out of luck actor. He's out of money, his agent can't find him a decent production
, and the judge in a custody battle
is inclined to give custody of his daughter over to his ex-wife. He returns to his childhood home
of Brussels: where he's still considered a national icon
With the sole purpose
of an actor being to lie for a living it is a refreshing change to see something that comes across as so honest. Instead of the usual Van Damme antics (kicking and killing), he takes a serious and more mature role in JCVD.
Based around a post-office heist
, Van Damme lets us glimpse into his life as an older man
taking on substandard roles to pay the bills whilst fighting for the custody of his daughter. Clearly there are many differences between JCVD’s character on screen and that of the real man
, but you cannot believe that a performance such as this could be achieved without some brutal honesty
of his life to date.
An opening scene finishes with the man himself looking straight down the camera (which you can see in the poster (above) which gives a massive sense of inclusion into the proceedings. You are welcomed (non-verbally) into this life that he has moulded for himself and allowed to judge for yourself (in a "look-at-me-and-what-I-have-become" kind of way).
Some may argue that this is an attempt at doing a Corey Haim. (Mr Haim took out a full page advertisement in Variety magazine this year, claiming to be ready for work stating “I’m ready to make amends”). If this is the case then JCVD has managed to do it with a finesse that Haim’s advert couldn’t muster. Whatever the reason behind such a film it was the best move to make, JCVD establishes Van Damme as a Bona Fide actor instead of simply “the Muscles from Brussels”.
This new technique called “acting” is shown at its peak with a lengthy monologue within the film. It is almost a timeout as he talks about his life and addictions. JCVD is most powerful it seems, whilst playing a character that is most powerless. There is nowhere to hide when speaking directly to the camera. His emotion is evident and his words are heartfelt. This refreshing take on an actor’s life is an insight that many are unlikely to see whilst reading celebrity gossip magazines.
The only real criticism to speak of is the lack of humour. That might seem strange considering this is a serious film. Yet there is natural humour to be found in everyday life and a talented writer can implement this very well into the piece. That is not to say that Frédéric Bénudis, Christophe Turpin and Mabrouk El Mechri didn’t do a fantastic job of the script but it would help keep the attention of some of those people who need a film to excite them within ten minutes of it starting, for them to continue watchin. This is merely a nitpick though and JCVD is a solid film without it. It has certainly been the best film of the Autumn/Winter 2008 season.
This truly is Jean-Claude Van Damme’s finest film; with an honesty that is sadly lacking from other films in its genre. Certainly JCVD (the movie) is worth your time if only to appreciate the power behind that look into the camera. I had thought that we had run out of our 2008 blockbusters after Hellboy and yet without any kicking, screaming or shouting, JCVD arrives and the meek movie from Brussels whispers a strong tale. It has a powerful story to tell. A masterful film that is worth your attention!
Rating: 5 out of 5