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JCVD
DVD disk
May 18, 2009 By: Jason Adams
JCVD order
Director:
Mabrouk El Mechri

Actors:
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Francois Damiens
Zinedine Soualem

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
The Jean-Claude Van Damme of real life is not the idealized hero of his popular action films. The man is broke, stuck in both an embittered child custody battle and straight to video hell. So when Van Damme finds himself a hostage during a bank robbery, itís time for him to see what heís really made of.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Iíve been known to give Jean-Claude Van Damme a bit of a hard time when Iíve had to review some of his crappy recent straight to video flicks, but thatís only because Iím a big fan of the man in his ďclassicĒ days. BLOODSPORT, LIONHEART, KICKBOXER, even UNIVERSAL SOLDIERÖthese were the movies I was raised on. Not crap like THE HARD CORPS and BORDER PATROL.

So it is with a happy heart that I declare JCVD an incredible return to form for the Muscles from Brussels, even beyond what weíve seen from the man before. For while thereís action and roundhouse kicks in this movie, JCVD is all about showing off Van Dammeís skills as an actor. Thatís right, acting. After watching this, I have no idea why the man comes off so wooden in his other movies. Heís got a truly incredible emotional range. Try to blink during Van Dammeís unbelievable six minute monologue where he opens up honestly about his background, career highs and lows, drug use, and his outlook on where life has taken him. Itís the kind of stuff you expect from Shakespeare not a Van Damme movie, but the man pulls it off to an alarming degree.

Iíve got to give a lot of credit to writer/director Mabrouk El Mechri for taking a chance on the fading action star and getting this kind of performance out of him. The script offers a serious deconstruction of Van Dammeís onscreen persona, while set in an interesting and exciting story. We see the mundane realism of real life as opposed to the idealized filmic settings, made entertaining by lots of inside jokes about action movies and his career in particular that fans will definitely appreciate. (My favorite revolves around people crediting/criticizing Van Damme for bringing John Woo to America.) El Mechri also provides the audience with some stylish visuals, such as the impressive 5 minute long continuous opening shot, as well as a jazzy score to give the movie some class.

If I had one critique of the film is that the structure was a bit weird in spots. The film opens with a number of exciting scenes, but then flashes back to show the same scenario from different points of view, which slows the pace down for the first hour while you wait for the movie to catch up. It was still entertaining throughout, just not as consistent. But thatís a small price to pay for us to finally get another good, nay great, movie from Jean-Claude Van Damme.
THE EXTRAS
If there ever was time for a Van Damme commentary, this is it. Sadly, we get nothing. Maybe there are Region 2 discs out there with better treatment.

Deleted Scenes (5:35): Two clips, one of which I swear was in the movie unchanged.

A Theatrical Trailer.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
I never thought Iíd see the day when I could give a new Van Damme movie four stars, but JCVD is a great vehicle for the man to showcase his muscles and his acting skills. You get action, drama, and even some humor, all in service of honoring and deconstructing the man himself. (The only thing missing is a joke about doing the splits on two chairs.) Highly recommended for Van Damme fans, past or present.

Extra Tidbit: Anybody know where I can find a copy of NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER?
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