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JCVD

Excellent meta-movie about Jean Claude Van Damme.

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Jean-Claude Van Damme is back, baby.

  • Feb 22, 2011
Rating:
+3
*** out of ****

Don't you love it when a crummy actor is given one moment of true glory? That moment of glory, for actor Jean-Claude Van Damme, is the film "JCVD". Throughout his career, Van Damme has starred in various generic action films; all of which have been forgettable and ultimately convoluted. It's almost kind of strange how this film doesn't mimic or mock the quality of his other films. No, this film is better than that. It features Van Damme playing a semi-fictitious version of himself; in a real-life situation in which he has to prove to himself that he can do the right thing outside of acting. The premise makes for a good movie; and this is Van Damme's best performance yet. In fact, Van Damme is what makes this film work so well. Aside from being a pretty fascinating film on its own, Van Damme has found his dramatic and emotional side. His character makes us feel for him, and there are those little moments where we realize just how treasured this film deserves to be. I don't think it's a great movie, but it has enough style and substance to win me over; and I'm not even a Jean-Claude Van Damme fan in the slightest. I guess your ability to enjoy this film is measured how much you hate Van Damme or on the contrary, how much you love him. Either way, this film is enjoyable and rewarding. There is a plot going on, with Van Damme as the only character worth giving a damn about. The film could have done better in those areas, but I'm not complaining due to the fact that this film is more artistic than anything Van Damme has ever been involved in. This is the kind of movie that makes you look at a star in different ways, and I think Van Damme will always remember this as his rebirth. Here he has put effort into a performance; so much effort, in fact, that the film itself could be called a "performance piece". I don't know if it's a character study, but I like the "movie stars have horrible lives" message and how the filmmakers put an unexpectedly affectionate twist to it. There's plenty to look at while watching the film, so yes; I recommend "JCVD" to most. There are not a whole lot of reasons why not to watch the film, since love Van Damme or hate him; this is his best work yet. And I have no doubt on my mind that it will be his first and last good film, since I think Van Damme has met his match. But since he's still got stuff like the "Universal Soldier" sequels coming out, maybe he hasn't. However, if he is proud of this film, than he is a smarter man than we may have thought he was. I still hate Van Damme; but not in this film. He's great here. And that's what I liked about "JCVD".

Jean-Claude Van Damme is a big Hollywood action star; generic, among other things. He's been living the life, as it would seem, for quite some time. However, when speaking of his personal life, things are rough. He is forbidden to see his young daughter for most of the time, and American isn't giving him the right kind of satisfaction. On top of that, his credit cards have stopped working, and now he's flat-broke. He decides to return to his home-town in hopes of finding himself once again, as well as escaping the torture of American culture, although finds himself in a whole new kind of mess. He goes to a bank so that he can get some cash, although ends up being thrown in the middle of a heist. Unfortunately, everyone on the outside of the Bank thinks he's the head of the heist plan, so whether he makes it out alive or not, he's in some deep shit. Most of the film finds Van Damme trying to cope with taking the blame for the criminal act, but what's fascinating here is not the plot; and it's not even what's going on. What I liked about this film was the character of Van Damme, and how slowly he realizes that life just isn't like the movies. Will he live through this ordeal? It's not up to me to decide. You need to see the movie for yourself, since there's a lot of good to be found. The film itself is very well-made, although without Van Damme's flawed career history, it wouldn't have been as good. However, I hope this doesn't inspire directors to make the same kind of movie for other poor actors. I mean, who wants to see GB: Gerard Butler? Nobody does, and that's why nobody should turn a movie like this into a trend. I hope to god that it remains at least somewhat unique.

Jean-Claude Van Damme runs this movie; he owns it. He's the reason it's good stuff. I've hated Van Damme ever since I heard the name of both the actor and the movies he was in, although this is the kind of film that makes you consider the star in a whole new way. He's actually very, very good in this film. Here, the actor displays emotions that I never knew he had; and he gives his character both depth and substance. I liked this movie, and Van Damme was enough to entertain. I won't say it's amazing, since it's not, but as a character study, it's mighty damn fine. I don't think it's worth it to discuss any of the other actors because frankly, Van Damme is the star of the movie, and his performance should be the center of attention. Whether you like the "Muscles from Brussels" or not, you'll probably end up liking this movie. Take it for what it is.

Now here is a film built in a way that is so alien to the rest of an actor's filmography, that it almost feels artistic. This film is not only a spectacular display of talent from Van Damme, but also a well-made production as a whole. The film is visually stunning; making great use of camera work and lighting to create an almost eerie atmosphere. The film has the capacity to be dramatic, gritty, and wholesome in one sit-down; and that's something that most films can only hope to accomplish. So does this film have artistic merit? I would say so. There's definitely some artistic craft that goes into taking a horrible actor like Van Damme and making him an addicting and intoxicating character. You won't want to take your eyes or ears off Van Damme or his dialogue; which is more than enough reason to ponder this nice little movie. I enjoyed the film because it does not build itself like an action film; but rather a drama. There's an almost powerful tone to the movie; although it's never explored as thoroughly as I would have hoped. But overall, this is pretty great for Van Damme. For once, he's in a GOOD film. Unfortunately, this is somewhat of a "one-time star change" for Van Damme; considering that he went from this to "Universal Solider 2". But at least he has this film at all; some bad actors don't get moments like this. Look, if you like Van Damme, then see this. If you don't like him, then see it anyways. Don't go to the film assuming that it's going to lampoon the guy's career. Take my word for it and go for the ride; expecting nothing more or less than a sweet, affectionate take on an actor's life-style. It's accurate and never pretentious. I can totally live with that.

Van Damme should have gotten an Oscar for his performance in this film, or at least a nomination. It's not every day that a star like him surprises us in a way such as this. He has gotten a film worthy of his inner talents. I specifically like the scene in which Van Damme makes a heartfelt, touching confession. He makes us realize that, in the story of this film, his character has not had a real breath of reality in quite a while. He has inhaled plenty of smoke from cigarettes; but never enough realism. I like this film for various reasons; Van Damme's performance, the visual style, and the direction. Everything seems to come together in the end to create a flawed but intriguing little movie. I will not force you to watch the film; it's not THAT good. But since it's still pretty damn good, I'd say it's a definite recommendation. There are few who will deny that this is Van Damme's best film to date; since he's been in a lot of crap lately. But this...I mean, this is just plain unexpected. Van Damme's performance attacks the audience with relentless force; and I kind of like that. He lets out his inner emotions and feelings into one great hell-of-a-performance. It's memorable, it's honest, and it's brutally kick-ass. Van Damme alone is enough reason for this film to be worth seeing. And considering all the crap that comes out these days, why not see it? A star can make a change; but not often. This is a moment of awesomeness, not just for Van Damme, but for the film's director and writer(s) as well. You have to appreciate the craft that went into the film, as well as the entertainment that it offers. Van Damme has never been so great. He is awesome in this movie, and I loved watching him. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

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February 23, 2011
Oh yes indeed this was such a good film, I was really into it. I loved this flick.
February 25, 2011
Nice.
 
February 23, 2011
"He has gotten a film worthy of his inner talents. I specifically like the scene in which Van Damme makes a heartfelt, touching confession" well said! I agree that Van Damme's performance assaults the viewer, very well written review!
February 25, 2011
Thanks.
 
1
More JCVD reviews
review by . May 14, 2009
Kicks Just Keep Gettin' Harder to Find
JCVD is just what all the other reviews claim, it's a tour de force for Jean-Claude Van Damme The Actor. If you're renting this expecting anything at all in the way of action then you are going to be extremely disappointed because apart from the opening scene which turns out to be a scene from a movie he is supposedly filming, there is a total of two kicks, an elbow, and maybe a punch. I think that perhaps as Van Damme nears 50 he's realized that his career as an action star is …
review by . January 29, 2009
JCVD movie poster
I've always been a fan of Jean Claude Van Damme's movies, the same way I'm a fan of, say, french fries or Hawaiian Punch or Gears of War. Basically guilty pleasure junk food.     As a youngster, my brother and I derived many hours of fun watching Kickboxer, Bloodsport, Street Fighter the Movie and so on. We would extend the fun times by repeating choice lines of dialogue from the movies like "My mama took one" in our best Belgian accents.    But whatever happened …
review by . March 15, 2009
"Central to Unit 27. Jean-Claude Van Damme's robbing a post office. I need back-up."     Short Attention Span Summary (SASS):       1. Jean- Claude Van Damme's getting no respect   2. It's so bad that even Steven Seagal steals a movie role from him   3. "The Muscles" returns to Brussels where at least everyone knows his name   4. His cash-strapped position leads him to the post office   5. People go postal …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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Wiki

JCVD is a French crime film directed by French-Algerian director Mabrouk El Mechri, and starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as himself, a down-and-out action star whose family and career are crumbling around him as he's caught in the middle of a post office heist in his hometown of Brussels, Belgium.
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