JCVD (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner28/01/2009

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 96 mins

The rumours are true – this is indeed Jean-Claude Van Damme's best film for 15 years (and a career-best performance), but it's also unexpectedly sad and surprisingly moving.

What's it all about?
Directed by Mabrouk el Mechri, JCVD stars Jean-Claude Van Damme as a vaguely fictionalised version of himself, who's finding all the single-take ass-kicking action a lot more exhausting now that he's 47 years old. With the studio offers having long since dried up and finding himself repeatedly screwed by producers, Van Damme hits rock bottom when he loses a custody battle for his daughter (Saskia Flanders) and runs out of money.

Returning to his native Brussels, things suddenly take a surreal turn when Van Damme pops into his local post office for a wire transfer and suddenly finds himself slap bang in the middle of a hostage situation. With the police and the media believing that Van Damme himself is robbing the post office, he finds himself in the awkward position of having to play reluctant hero for the hostages, while negotiating – at gunpoint – with the police on behalf of the criminals.

The Good
Essentially, this is Van Damme's Being John Malkovich, except there's surprisingly little humour in it, aside from a couple of digs at Steven Seagal and John Woo. Instead, we get an unexpectedly moving monologue towards the end, in which Van Damme expresses regret for all the bad things he's done in the past.

The Great
The script is excellent, continually subverting the audience's expectations and even employing the Michael Haneke trick of showing you an alternate take that turns out not to be true. In addition, aside from the cartoonishly evil lead bad guy (Zinedine Soualem, complete with ridiculous hairdo), the situation is weirdly realistic – it's entirely believable, for example, that the robbers would ask for his autograph and force him to demonstrate his trademark move where he kicks a cigarette from someone’s mouth.

Worth seeing?
JCVD is a sharply written, weirdly original film that is guaranteed to make you see Jean-Claude Van Damme in a whole new light. Recommended.

Film Trailer

JCVD (15)
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Content updated: 24/10/2017 01:23

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