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Rapid Reviews – JCVD

May 17, 2009

In the late 80s, early 90s, it looked like Van Damme might challenge Stallone and Arnold for a place at the top of the action pyramid. He always seemed to be just on the verge of breaking big in the mainstream, but instead faded into the obscurity of poorly made direct-to-video dreck. I blame it on the fact that, as physically gifted as he was, the man was a black-hole of charisma.
Which is why it was such a surprise to see him in JCVD. Not only is the movie well made, Van Damme actually turns in a performance worth savoring and revisiting. Granted, he is playing himself, but it is such an open and bare portrayal, I can imagine it being even more difficult than taking on another persona. At one point, he gives a breaking-the-4th-wall monologue that should pull you right out of the movie, but he sells it, and in doing so creates sympathy for both the character and the man.

The action in the movie comes in starts and lurches, which provides for more impact (a Sudden Impact, even?) than a typical Van Damme flick.  There’s also a great tracking shot in the opening of the movie that is both technically adept and a peek behind the curtain of action movie cliches.

I also enjoyed the not-so-subtle jabs at the culture of celebrity.  Van Damme gets caught up in a bank (post office) robbery and because he is famous and down on his luck, (as well as because the real bank robbers force him to the forefront),  it is immediately assumed he is the perpetrator, and the streets outside the post office fill with fans.  You’re never quite sure if they are there to cheer him on or to watch him fall.  Both, probably.

Oh, and there’s a good joke at Steven Seagal’s expense.

I’d say  The Muscles from Brussels is back! but throughout this film, Van Damme the actor and Van Damme the character come across as more likeable than he’s ever been, so maybe it’s more accurate to say that he’s finally gotten to where he always wanted to be.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Kelly permalink
    May 28, 2009 6:47 pm

    Hey Ab, It’s nice to see you posting some stuff. I was re-reading your post on Facebook, and I was thinking that maybe, to me, a better forum for discussion is the blog. I really enjoy reading blogs–even those that disagree with me–but I’m not prepared to get into heavy discussions via Facebook for the precisely the reason that it is, well….Facebook. Granted, my blog is family oriented, and I’ve never been interested in a public and political blog, because I’m not interested in long debates with strangers. However, I’ve been harboring thoughts of a private, more political blog. Maybe you could think of something like that.

  2. Caleb permalink
    July 15, 2009 3:10 pm

    Ab,

    So I took your advice and watched JCVD. I found it at the library, just in. I brought it home the other night and, well, I thought it was great. I was hooked. It was the best non-action, action movie I have ever seen. And I loved his monologue that he gives directly to the viewer. I’ve actually found myself thinking about the film quite a bit since I’ve watched it. Glad you recomended it. I plan on telling everyone about it.

    Caleb

    • ajhagg permalink*
      July 15, 2009 4:27 pm

      Caleb,

      I’m glad you liked it. I really thought it was a hell of a lot of fun, and it was well-made and well-acted. It made me hope Van Damme gets some more roles in the near future.

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