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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

JCVD: Van Damme Like You've Never Seen Him

I loved JCVD when it came out a couple of years ago and I still can’t stop singing its praises. Rent it, NetFlix it, stream it – I don’t care how you do it you have got to see this film. Simply put: If you like Jean Claude Van Damme films, you’ll love this film. And get this: If you don’t like Jean Claude Van Damme, you’re going to really love this film!

I have never seen a JCVD (Jean Claude Van Damme) film in my life, but I’m familiar enough to know that they aren’t the kind of films for which I am willing to spend money. Even if airing for free on TV, I end up surfing the channels for anything else before the first well-placed punch lands from the well-trained body of the “Muscles from Brussels”. However, there’s been a lot of good press about this European release and a friend swore that it would be like nothing I could possibly expect from a Van Damme movie, so I gave it a try. Well, Van damn if he wasn’t 100% right!

In fact, Van Damme’s image is so pronounced and strong that his name has become synonymous with low budget action-packed films where vengeance and rescue are the main plot elements. And these expectations and preconceived notions are exactly the key points that this imaginative and well-crafted film plays upon to create a fantastic movie that everyone with definite ideas or opinions about this Hollywood icon should see.

JCVD is a fictionalized story about the real Jan Claude Van Damme. It’s about his struggles as an aging action icon trying his best to rise above his image while dealing with the realities of a child custody battle and the “Hollywood” world that wants to eek every penny out of the action icon they created. It’s about dealing with his fans and dealing with his demons. It’s about making a living and dealing with the self-loathing that comes with the compromises made to earn that money. And, ultimately, it’s about the definitive moment when all these factors come to a head and Van Damme finds himself involved with a bank heist gone wrong. The result is a man coming to terms with who he has been and who he wants to be.

It is something that can happen to any of us, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In fact, it’s an old device that many an action film has been based upon. And much like an action film, the concept here has been taken to the extreme. But here, Van Damme is a real man, left without a script or a fight choreographer, facing real bullets in guns held by unstable people willing to use them. Simultaneously, there are others surrounding him who expect the action star to make a move, and still others who hope that the superstar’s ego doesn’t make him think he’s in another action film. Once again, Van Damme is placed in a roll he does not want, but works with the forces beyond his control to do the best he can with it.

Many characters in the movie suspect that Van Damme has broken away from realty and in a very cleverly devised moment the film itself does no less, taking the star and the audience out of the reality it has created in order to give Van Damme a platform to espouse upon his fate and the ridiculous situation he now finds himself in. And all this is done in a single take! The performance is no less than Oscar worthy. Seriously. I was profoundly disappointed when there wasn’t even a bit of buzz over Van Damme’s performance that year. Unfortunately, Mickey Rourke’s come back role in “The Wrestler” overshadowed any attention Van Damme might have received.

In the end, there is not a happy resolution, but a rather bittersweet and emotional one. Much like his life, the incident at the bank forces Van Damme to make decisions and compromises that will have long lasting ramifications affecting everyone involved, especially those closest to him. This all culminates in an ending that I guarantee you will not forget. It is a moment that will break your heart, and make you believe that the most incredible achievement an action star could possibly make may actually happen someday at the Academy Awards. This was absolutely the best film I saw in 2008. See it!

Here is a link to the film’s most amazing and impressive scene: link.

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