Mabrouk El Mechri
Jean-Claude Van Damme
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.
Deleted Scenes (5:35): Two clips, one of which I swear was in the movie unchanged.
A Theatrical Trailer.
Extra Tidbit: Anybody know where I can find a copy of NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER?