2008 / Director. Mabrouk El Mechri.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
It's impossible to hate JCVD. This is a fantastic movie and I can only imagine that its detractors are the intellectually challenged folk who refuse to watch subtitled films. As the title suggests, Jean-Claude Van Damme plays himself in a skewed and altered reality. Down on his luck, deep in a custody battle and stuck in D2V-land he returns to his home town of Brussels. On his first day back he walks into a bank at the wrong moment and becomes a hostage in a botched robbery. The authorities on the outside think Van Damme is the ring-leader and a crowd of crazed fans and a media circus fill the streets surrounding the building. The film plays out from various perspectives and often skips back to the beginning, offering repeated scenes with new revelations. This is a gutsy film and there is no way it could have been made in the States. It smacks of Euro and I can't imagine any American studio wanting anything to do with it. Thank God Van Damme is French because it gives the film a fantastic setting as well as a weird and wonderful quirkiness. It's a gutsy movie too and at this point in his career, Van Damme has little to lose. He really gives everything he's got and his performance is brave. It's self-referential and very self-critical. Throughout the film he discusses his career, mistakes he's made and opportunities he's wasted. One incredible monologue midway through the film is quite amazing. He breaks from the narrative and addresses the audience in a heartfelt reflection of his life. He exudes emotion and proves that there's more to him as an actor than just an action hero who can do the splits. He's also in the shape of his life and at the age of 47 is as fit as a 20 year old. The opening action sequence of the film is amazing. One single take, lasting for 10 minutes with every kind of action cliche in the book... it's a moment of endurance and coordination that should be applauded. This is excellent filmmaking.