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CAN: J.C.V.D.

May. 21, 2008by: The Arrow

J.C.V.D.

Directed by: Mabrouk El Mechri
Starring: Jean Claude Van Damme

PLOT: Jean Claude Van Damme the action star (JCVD plays himself) is having a rough patch. His Agent won't hook him up with a Studio flick, he's about to lose custody of his daughter and he's out of bread (ie pognon). Things go from bad to worse when he unwillingly walks into a bank robbery in progress and is taken hostage.

CRITIQUE: Upon watching the trailer a while back, I knew that J.C.V.D. was a smart career move for my favorite Belgium kickboxer JEAN CLAUDE VAN DAMME. But now that I've seen the film, I couldn't have imagined how much of a GREAT move it was. JCVD started off with a bang via a visceral action sequence (Van Damme kicking butt for a film he’s shooting within the film) that was easily one of the best Van Damme action jamboree since HARD TARGET. We got everything; kicks, gun play, punch fun, knife fight, flamethrower tomfoolery, a big kaboom and all shot in one IMPRESSIVE continuous take at that! I was floored! WOW!

Then the film wound up playing us the audience on four clever and engaging levels. 1- They've taken Van Damme's real life, his dealings with fans (having one of the bad guys be a fan led to so many laughs) and media publicized downfalls and reenacted them here with a penchant on humor. The scene in the courthouse where the prosecutor lists all of the violent acts found in Van Damme's films for example had me in stitches! And we even get a cute little nudge at the old rivalry that Van Damme and Steven Seagal shared (and maybe still do) when they were on top of their game. Therefore, if you know Van Damme, his background, his ties to say John Woo and the aforementioned Steven Seagal, then you'll be treated to a couple of cute jokes that only true JCVD fans will get.

2 – We had the film played straight as an entity on its own. Think DOG DAY AFTERNOON by way of PULP FICTION in terms of the back and forth way the narrative unraveled. The unorthodox method that this story was communicated made for a surprise filled watch that kept me on my toes. The flick often misled me while playing on my expectations resulting in a couple of "I didn't see this coming" turn of events.

3- The flick played as "Van Damme's last laugh". Via this story of him playing himself he got the opportunity to showcase the extent of his acting chops, comic timing and overall charisma. Straight up, Van Damme should maybe act in French more often (his native language) because he seems much more comfortable with it. He got to spit out his side of the coin as well. France has been mocking Van Damme for a while now, poking fun at his infamous "Aware" speech or his shared with the media philosophies on life. In a ballsy move here, the movie’s storyline actually halts at a certain point, then Van Damme turns to the camera and addresses all the hate he’s been getting via a raw and poignant monologue. The "heartfelt interlude" almost when on for too long, but that thankfully it ended right on the dot. Awesome!

Any negatives to spin kick? Well the flick was more of a drama than a comedy and that's too bad because Van Damme has a keen comic timing and I was hoping they’d capitalize on it more. Moreover they focused more on the fiction aspect of the story than the based on real life stuff. Groovy footage that I had seen online (like Jean Claude doing yeyo with producers on a glass table) weren't present in this final cut and personally, that jive is what I carved to see the most.  Lastly, the lead bad guy got on my nerves at times (nothing a back-hand couldn't have solved) and the film had minor pacing issues here and there; nothing too critical as to the latter point.

On the whole though, this style heavy (loved the long takes and the randomly semi surreal cinematography) hit the spot when it came to humor, drama and originality even when threading on familiar grounds within the "bank robbery" subgenre. Van Damme earned my respect a long time ago as an action star, I've always been a fan of his, even when he didn't know how to act, JCVD will hopefully turn non believers into believers - it damn well should! In my book, with this picture, the man has proven himself 100% as more than a dude than can throw a mean kick. He's a multi talented performer, one to be reckoned with GO JC GO!

RATING: 8/10

Source: JoBlo.com

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