JCVD (2008)
March 14, 2018 5:51 PM - Subscribe

Jean-Claude Van Damme gets involved in a bank robbery with a hostage situation and reflects about his life during it.

AV Club: Macho action heroes generally aren't given to self-deprecation, which would undermine their all-important air of steely impenetrability; betraying any sign of weakness, anything beyond determination or anger, makes them seem too human. With that in mind, it's a shock and relief to see the many faces of Jean-Claude Van Damme, the "muscles from Brussels," in JCVD, a canny piece of autobiography that looks at the man behind the legend and the legend behind the man. A decade ago, such a film would be inconceivable for a bankable star like Van Damme, but the new century has left him floundering in straight-to-DVD purgatory, and JCVD finds him in a mood to laugh it off, and in the process, perhaps reinvent himself.

Roger Ebert: The new film from the Muscles from Brussels is the surprisingly transgressive "JCVD," which trashes his career, his personal life, his martial arts skills, his financial stability and his image. He plays himself, trapped in a misunderstood hostage crisis, during which we get such a merciless dissection of his mystique that it will be hard to believe him as a Universal Soldier ever again. On the other hand, it will be easier to like him. This movie almost endearingly savages him.

NYTimes: Still, as a foray into self-mocking, self-aggrandizing career rehabilitation, “JCVD” shows some promise and holds some interest. It would hold more if Mr. Van Damme were not so fundamentally lackluster a celebrity, with a string of negligible movies to his name. While the filmmakers — and the star himself — gamely make fun of this legacy of mediocrity, they cannot quite escape it. This may well be the most memorable Jean-Claude Van Damme movie ever, but I’m afraid that’s not saying much.

Empire: Cynics may doubt the film’s sincerity, detecting the whiff of a fallen star’s vanity project, despite a darkly funny, partly improvised script which doesn’t always show him in the best light. But there’s no mistaking the gusto with which director/co-screenwriter Mabrouk El Mechri shoots the siege, imaginatively photographed by the brilliantly-named Pierre-Yves Bastard. Ultimately, what could have been a direct-to-video curiosity becomes a highly unusual and strangely compelling collision of Being John Malkovich and Dog Day Afternoon.

SF Chronicle: "JCVD" is not an action movie but a shrewd satire about stardom and the cult of celebrity. It tells the story of an action star who is still famous, and yet something of a has-been. A man who still has fans, but who has serious career problems. A man who is recognized everywhere, but as much for his failures as his successes. A man who could probably spend the rest of his life making good money in pictures, but in low-budget, demeaning productions that are beneath him.

In other words, it's about Jean-Claude Van Damme, who is played by none other than Jean-Claude Van Damme, who does so with great self-effacement and a battle-scarred humility. Van Damme brings to the film a weary sense of humor and an emotional facility that we haven't seen from him before.

Slate: Think of it as Sunset Bloodsport with Jean-Claude as Norma Desmond.


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posted by MoonOrb (5 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by MoonOrb at 6:14 PM on March 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I did not know that this existed, thanks for posting. I've been meaning to re-watch Timecop for about a month now, this looks like a good double feature.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 6:25 PM on March 14, 2018

The 6-minute introspective monologue is incredible. The movie was not easy on him and his career, but it really felt like he needed to purge some demons from his past, and did that in front of a camera.
posted by lmfsilva at 6:23 AM on March 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

I found it a strangely compelling movie that made me like JCVD the actor a bit more.

The closing credits cover of “Modern Love” by Marie Mazziotti was quite a revelation as well.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:17 PM on March 15, 2018

yeah i didn't know what to think of this when i first saw it. but it's a surprisingly affecting movie.
posted by numaner at 2:00 PM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

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