Mabrouk El Mechri's JCVD

Mabrouk El Mechri's JCVD

I love martial arts movies. You're going to hear me say that on more than one occasion on this blog.

I love martial arts movies, and one of the first ones I ever saw was Bloodsport, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. He plays Frank Dux, an American man with a Belgian accent, wearing a low-cut tank top, accompanied by a hairy bear muscle mary called Ray. They take part in a kumite tournament which resembles Streetfighter II on mushrooms.

It took a lot of work to even get to see Bloodsport in the first place. First, I bought it at a car boot sale and hid it from my parents until I was able to create a fake 'PG' sticker for the video sleeve so they'd let me watch it. Basically, Bloodsport is frickin' awesome.

Since then, it's fair to say that Jean-Claude Van Damme's career has had its ups and downs.

JCVD is his attempt at reinventing himself, or perhaps redeeming himself. And to an extent it works. The film opens with a long uninterrupted take following JCVD taking out various bad guys - but then becomes a wholly unexpected film. We are following JCVD, as himself. He argues with a disinterested director on set, goes through a painful child custody battle, argues with his agent, and in the end returns to his home town in Belgium to recharge his batteries and recuperate.

He stops off at a bank to get some money out - and is caught up in a robbery. What happens next is straight out of Dog Day Afternoon, but with a washed up martial arts movie star in place of Al Pacino.

Great concept. The execution is perhaps a little disappointing, but there's some great set pieces and jokes, many of which are aimed at hardcore JCVD fans. The biggest payoff is that we never really see the Muscles from Brussels executing any flashy moves (except for the part where a starstruck bank robber asks him to do the cigarette trick from Hard Target).

The most jawdropping moment has to be the monologue.

Yes, a monologue from Jean-Claude Van Damme. However, this is delivered in his mother tongue, so is a bit more fluent than his usual delivery. Who can forget him saying "Zere iz nevair enough time to satisfy a whoo-man" in TimeCop, for example? But this is a long, uninterrupted monologue where JCVD essentially explains himself to his friends, his family, and his fans, before the action of the film resumes. It's pretty heavy stuff, and seems quite heartfelt.

The film also concludes in a very unexpected way - and ends on a real emotional sucker punch.

JCVD is a good film, for its concept alone. I'd recommend you seek it out on DVD or in cinemas, especially if you're a fan of the great man's work. I just can't help thinking the star of the film would have walked away with a lot more dignity, had he not signed up to star in a sequel to Universal Soldier immediately afterwards.



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