JCVD (2008) Poster

(2008)

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8/10
A pleasant surprise
wismerhill4 June 2008
JCVD is an excellent surprise. It's a kind of dramatic comedy where Jean-Claude Van Damme plays with great conviction his own role in life. This starting postulate, to tell a passage of the life of a movie-star on the decline by the person himself, makes the movie sail between fiction and autobiography. This original and ambiguous concept propels the script in a tasty, funny and tragic reality/fiction realm. One can think sometimes of Pulp Fiction.

The famous movie-star, Jean-Claude, is surprisingly right and touching. Van Damme plays here the role of his life, in all the senses of the words. There will be a before and an after JCVD. The central monologue of the film, a rare feat of ingenuity, a long one-shot sequence of the star made up of his doubts and his anguishes, is bound to become a classic.

The film is however not perfect. The flashbacks are well carried out but some scenes seen twice can be somewhat long and would have been improved by being shortened a bit the second time around. This saved time would have made it possible to develop the supporting characters, like the police chief, a bit more. Speaking of supporting characters, those are somewhat caricatures and with one dimension.

JCVD reveals itself as an excellent surprise. Far from being a hollow marketing ploy, this film, probably the best of Van Damme, is a true success that deserves to be seen.

The question now is what will Van Damme do next?
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9/10
JCVD like we have never seen him before
Kevin Schwoer7 November 2008
I went into J.C.V.D with all the prepubescent memories of the action heroes of yesteryear; nostalgic roundhouse kicks, horrible dialogue, overdone explosions, one-liners and all. A time where the movie industry churned out the same movie a hundred different ways with the likes of Schwarzenegger, Stalone, and Van Damme in the spotlight. These action movies seem set aside from Hollywood history, not as bad films per say but as their own separate entity where critics and nay-sayers alike had no power to quell the insatiable appetite of young movie goers. A time where this trinity of subpar actors ruled the box offices with their muscles and gun toting charisma. Not that I was expecting J.C.V.D to be one of these films, but it is almost impossible not to be reminded of the better days of mindless entertainment when the film's title is the initials of the King of High Kicking, Jean Claude Van Damme. I was expecting something I have never seen before, something of a reinvention of an American, French, or more importantly, world icon. Which is exactly what I got.

J.C.V.D. is not a Jean Claude Van Damme movie whatsoever, no more than its namesake. There are no drawn out fight scenes, no car chases, and certainly no bad one-liners. Instead, the film is a hybrid, a meta-film, going beyond documentary, mocumentary, or full blown narrative. If I were to categorize it as anything, it would be a documentary of a mocumentary since it isn't afraid to break the fourth wall and does so on many occasions. The narrative is broken up, flipping back and forth if not only for the element of short lived mystery. It is not a character study since Van Damme is almost too well known for that, rather it is reenactment of his life dramatized for Hollywood. It doesn't matter if the story is true or not, the important thing is that Van Damme makes it real. Obviously drawing from his real life experiences, he pours his heart into his cinematic counterpart and proves to the world that he can flex his acting muscles just as well as he can flex his biceps, if not better now in his old age. Van Damme humanizes himself in a way that we have never seen. In a power and telling scene where Van Damme literally is lifted above the fourth wall, he explains to the camera his inglorious life and career, full or mistakes, drugs, and heartbreak. It brings a heart to those action films of yesteryear, of a past where things were simpler and a present where retrospection, as well as introspection, only leads to heartache.

This film speaks about the power of the celebrity and the quick to judge public. It brings to light the blood thirsty court system once it has a celebrity to make it famous. And it shows that not all of these superstars are the personalities we see on film. That they are normal people thrust into extraordinary situations with nothing to do but buckle under the pressure of the public. But beyond the serious nature of J.C.V.D. there are plenty of easter eggs to be found for those pure action fan boys. References to all of his previous work and signature high kicks are spread throughout the film that give it it's humor while the performances and solid writing attribute to many laughs as well.

The opening sequence of J.C.V.D. perfectly captures the message it is broadcasting to our time. It features an action sequence where Van Damme is out of breath and sloppily taking out soldiers while the stunt men and actors alike exhibit their heartless effort for a pay check in the film industry while the director throws darts at a picture of Hollywood. It lacks all the magic of his work while accentuating the cheesiness to a point where the fake film is a mirror image of the action industry today. And as Van Damme tries to catch his breath and lobby for a better film, he can only walk away in disgust of what his beloved career has become. J.C.V.D. is a film that knows what it is and what it is trying to say. Yet it somehow goes beyond that to become something more. It breaks down and then raises up one of the most famous action stars of all time only to show him in one of his best roles. Himself. It is not a tribute to those days gone by where I would rent six Van Damme movies and watch the rest of the afternoon away, it is more. It is a fun, funny, entertaining, and a damn good film. One thing is for sure, I will never look at Van Damme the same way again, and that is a great thing.
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7/10
Interesting movie, with a terrific performance by Van Damme.
Squeele5 June 2008
Interesting concept from french director Mabrouk el Mechri: real action star Jean Claude Van Damme is engaged into a bitter legal battle for his daughter's custody. Said daughter is mocked by her classmates for her father's antics, and prefers staying with her mother. Ridiculed by the media and smarty-pants naysayers, condemned to shoot sub-par B-movies in eastern Europe, almost broke and devastated by his little girl's condition, Jean Claude flies back to his native Belgium in order to find solace. After an odd encounter with small time crooks, his life and perception by the public will be changed forever.

From a direction/scriptwriting point of view, the movie is somewhat lacking focus. It's relying a bit too much on inside jokes and heist movie clichés, for better or worse. There are some truly great moments (the opening scene is hilarious - any scene using Baby Huey's "Hard Times" tune cannot be bad anyway; the court scenes are cleverly written and the very last shot finds a perfect balance of emotion without being overblown or tear-jerking) and the whole film deserves praise for being original and clever. However it stretches some scenes way too much, uses an awful bleached color scheme that could turn off some people (it's just a detail, but it annoyed me throughout the whole screening) and uses unnecessary flashbacks instead of sticking to a more tight storytelling, which could've benefited the movie in my humble opinion.

However, these little flaws are nothing compared to the enormous heart this movie displays. Jean Claude Van Damme may not be Daniel Day Lewis or Sean Penn, but he gives an astounding performance in this film. He's very comfortable in the comical scenes, but his acting chops really shine when the movie gets emotional. His long monologue, looking at the camera, and the audience (and perhaps even God) is nothing short of amazing. In his own words, he really begs for a second chance not only in his career, but in life. He's incredibly moving (acting in his native language helps a lot) and above all doesn't try to pretend he's something more than a washed up movie star, with a somewhat limited vocabulary. He just asks for one more chance, and judging by this flick he truly deserves it.

Overall, a nice surprise for those unfamiliar with "the Muscles from Brussels" and a refreshing comedy. Except a few complaints about the pace and the direction it's a highly recommended movie. And hopefully the beginning of a new career for JCVD.
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8/10
The best I've seen from Van Damme
robby-deblauwe22 June 2008
OK, I saw the movie today and here's my review: This movie is by far the best movie I've seen with Van Damme. Not his best action movie, because it's not what you would expect of a Van Damme movie, but the best movie he ever made. For me this is the highlight of his career and he'll probably never make a better movie.

The movie had indeed a dog day afternoon, even a Tarantino feel to it. The story is told in pieces and by the end of the movie all the pieces come together.

The beginning with the action scene is nicely done, and the one-take scene puts you right in the action.

Then the story continues with Van Damme arriving in Schaarbeek and going to the postoffice. From that moment one the story unravels.

Van Damme plays a portrait of himself and does this extremely well. He does have a sense for drama, and he really acts well. I do believe this has something to do with him being more comfortable in his native language.

The other main characters are perhaps not very well developed, no real background story, which for me is a bit off a flaw. But the movie off course centers around Van Damme.

The famous monologue is definitely a must see and is a summing of what he has encountered in his life, very moving.

This movie, for me, shows us that he definitely CAN act given the right director and script. I hope this opens eyes, and also his.

The direction for me was excellent and I think the director will go far. He clearly has talent.

I think the movie should've given a chance on the festival circuit, it definitely would've found an audience. (maybe they should do this in te states).

So conclusion? The best I've seen from Van Damme... A must see.

8/10.
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8/10
Spectacular
Craig McPherson22 November 2008
There's some word combinations that you simply can't envisage together. "Jean-Claude Van Damme can act" is one of them. Yet, remarkable as it may seem, the Muscles from Brussels turns in a truly career turning performance in JCVD.

Directed and co-written by Mabrouk El Mechri, JCVD manages to capably straddle art house, action and comedy genres as it captivates the viewer by laying bare the soul of the star of such DVD fare as Bloodsport, Streetfighter, and Universal Soldier, to name only a few.

Largely based on his real life troubles, JCVD unfolds as Van Damme retreats to his native Belgium in the wake of a losing child custody battle in a Los Angeles court.

Mounting financial troubles have left our hero with over-maxed plastic and debit cards that no longer yield ATM withdrawals. Forced to tap into his savings reserves, he makes a pit stop at a post office/bank to arrange a money wire transfer to pay his lawyer, only to discover that the bank is in the process of being robbed and he's stuck in the midst of the drama.

To make matters worse, the manner in which things have unfolded has caused authorities and media alike to believe that Van Damme is the mastermind, orchestrating the heist and hostage taking to pay his legal bills.

Segmented into chapters and shown out of sequence, similar to Pulp Fiction, El Mechri manages to deftly juggle laughs and tension to deliver a film that uniquely straddles several genres, including breaking the "fourth wall" with an eight-minute long monologue in the film's third act that sees the muscle-bound Belgian recap, with painful tear-inducing pain, his life of cheesy movies, women and drugs.

Think of Dog Day Afternoon in which Pacino gets to speak to the audience and lay his soul bare and you've got an idea of what's in store with JCVD, which, if there's any justice, will do for Van Damme's career what Tarantino did for Travolta's. Especially now that we know JCVD can act.
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8/10
The lost son returns
johnslegers17 November 2009
There once was a naive young men from the slums of Brussels full of hope and passionate with love seeking his way in life and making his dreams come true by becoming a Hollywood movie star. Boy oh boy, did things turn out to be different from what he expected. After once being type-casted as a martial arts B-movie star, he became easily outdated and in time just food for ridicule. After being walked all over by numerous people he trusted, including the women he loved, and after allowing one of these women to get him introduced to an illegal and addictive substance, he continued to do downhill.

The rise from a simple Belgian boy to Hollywood movie star and the subsequent fall from grace turned the once naive young man into a wise old man. Having seen much of the world and lived both a life of poverty and pain as well as a life of luxury and hedonism, this man has seen it all and done it all. And now he's back with a vengeance.

Of course, the man I'm talking about is Jean-Claude van Damme. Disappointed about the rats and vultures that populate Hollywood, he decided to go back to his roots, pay respects to his homeland and hope he's still welcome there to attempt a new career in movies. And boy oh boy, his first attempt seems promising.

Jean-Claude van Damme showed the world he can actually act and he made sure that everyone watching this film understands why he was involved. His disgust towards the media and the Hollywood movie industry just radiate from this film, but not in arrogance but rather in all modesty and with regret, clinging on to the values and principles once taught to him by his parents and his Karate teacher when he was still a little boy living in Brussels. As a fellow Belgian, I pay respect to this man and hope his second movie career will be better than his first.

Bonne chance, Jean-Claude.
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10/10
Wow! One of the most original, dazzling films of the year!
Warning: Spoilers
Cinema rarely punches you in the face with originality these days. Be it re-makes or sequels, or the same films with different titles, it's often stagnated, boring and uninspiring, bar the exceptional re-inventions of genres, such as The Dark Knight. However one of the most unique and dumbfounding films of the year, stars, shockingly, the Muscles from Brussels, Jean Claude Van Damme! As a long time fan of JC's high kicking shenanigans, I've embraced the joy of some switch off the brain, simple carnage. A 360 spinning kick here, a roundhouse there. All good fun, but in truth, with all the depth of a toddlers paddling pool. I like Jean Claude, he's always had expressive eyes, and a kind of hidden promise of a proper actor behind the biceps. He's improved over the years, and in recent years has elevated a few of his straight to video flicks (Wake Of Death and Until Death in particular). Of course these roles weren't exactly brimming with depth, and if anything you get the sense Van Damme moulded the characters far beyond what no doubt was very minimal in the screenplay. Again, these were roles that could only go so far, only offer so much diversity and dimension. In JCVD however, Jean Claude breaks out of the constraints of DTV action spec, in his most challenging role…himself.

This is JC, as himself. A somewhat exaggerated version of himself, that on paper borrows well publicised events from JC's life, has fun with some aspects, but with a real sense of integrity. This isn't strictly auto-biographical, but JC gives such a heartfelt performance. Not only does he create a great movie character but also pours his heart out on screen. The story sees JC at his lowest ebb. He's losing custody of his daughter, struggling for money, suffering from a crisis of identity, and worst of all losing parts for films he doesn't really want to do, but needs the money, to Steven Seagal! A simple trip to the post office, results in Jean Claude being caught up in a robbery, one which he gets blamed for. Hostages expect him to save the day like his movie persona, but in reality JC has the same fears as anyone else, and simply wants to get out alive.

Van Damme's performance, is astonishing. He jumps off the screen and finally manages to be unhindered in what is his first fully formed character. Be it his emotiveness, comedic timing, or poignant delivery of the already famous, and utterly sensational monologue, Van Damme is just right on the money. He doesn't put a foot wrong. Added to this, JC is well supported by a very good cast. This is probably the best cast Van Damme has had to work with. Just good actors, who play off the main man well, and lend him fine support.

Director Mabrouck El Mechri is also a revelation! What a way to announce yourself to the film world. Far and away this is the best direction of any Jean Claude movie. Inventive, coherent, visually arresting, Mechri knows what he wants, knows what he's doing, and delivers. From the magnificent opening long take of Van Damme getting down to the business of making an action film, to the monologue, and everything in between and there-after, Mechri has a sure hand, loaded with imagination and style, without going overboard. He's well aided by a Bastard! That's the unfortunately named Pierre-Yves Bastard, the cinematographer. Elsewhere, the sound design is superb, the film is well edited, and the soundtrack, and score are excellent. In pretty much every department, this is the best I've seen throughout Van Damme's career. It's a cracking film, with clever touches, a witty script, top performances, and brilliant on a technical level. Mechri's obvious admiration for Scorsese, Lumet, Tarantino, amongst others, is clear, but all wrapped up in something very auteur and personal. The film doesn't play out chronologically, but the structure makes sense. Every time there's a time shift, it has a logic to it. It's very well constructed.

Overall, JCVD is an immensely satisfying and entertaining film. Funny, charming, poignant, and for Jean Claude, something very special. He could have a very good career re-birth as a character actor. I really hope he doesn't waste himself in action movies again. As far as the action stars go, this is probably the best performance of anyone since Stallone in Rocky, or Willis in Pulp Fiction. The script by Mechri, Benudis, and Turpin, has allowed an unbiased outside viewpoint to shape the character, while Van Damme's own experience and acting ability, add the extra layers to the fascinating construct. Sensibly Mechri doesn't allow the film to focus too much on the Dog Day Afternoon scenario. It's all about Van Damme, and what a character! *****
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9/10
The direction makes all the difference
dridi_i12 October 2008
I just saw this movie at the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma in Montréal (Canada), and allow me to tell you that it's a must see film for everyone. I'm a big Van Damme fan and I have all the films he ever made so I'm gonna concentrate my comment around Van Damme. The first thing I'll say is that this movie is his best and possibly one of the best movies of the year. Going to the theatre, I wasn't expecting a masterpiece, after all it's Jean Claude Van Damme and you see his movies for the action and his high kicks not for his acting. But the director made all the difference in Jean Claude's performance. The concept itself helps a lot. Van Damme is playing himself, so he's not playing one of his stereotyped roles. Furthermore, him speaking in his native language made a huge impact on his performance. He's more natural and more authentic which made him more credible. Compared to all other movies he appeared in, this is a revelation. The comedic tone of the movie is also something to be noted. The jokes are well done but what makes the difference is the jokes focused on Van Damme. The reference to his roundhouse kicks are just hilarious. Two moments especially shine in this regard. The first one is the demonstration in the post office and the second one happens towards the end of the film. You just can't miss them and they have that good old classic Van Damage feel to them. Also worth mentioning are his personal goofy quotes in french. The one when he's interviewed by a french journalist who asks him about the total of 1+1 will leave you breathless. Not to mention the courthouse sequence which was so funny. But the best moment of the movie remains his monologue to the camera. For five minutes, or so, he goes back to his life. He talks about how he believed in the American dream, his drug and marriage problems, how Hollywood screwed him up ,how he wants so bad to be granted a second chance etc. It's a classic cinema moment in all senses. It felt more a confession than anything else. It was moving and genuine and you can feel the human being behind The Muscles from Brussels image. The other thing to be noted is the long shot at the beginning of the movie. It was hilarious and it summarizes in a sense all of Van Damme's career: Gunfights, high kicks, goofy acting you name them. In the end, the direction of the film really sets it apart from any other Van Damme's movies. The director knew how to get the best of Van Damme and put together a film that felt genuine and true. However, some questions remain. What's Van Damme going to do from now on? Will he be recognized as an accomplished actor? Will he get scripts that show him more as a human being rather than a bulk of muscles? Will he be making more European films rather than keep on making straight to DVD films? I can't say, but one thing remains for certain: JCVD is the rebirth of JCVD.
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10/10
A great movie. Oscar-worthy performance.
houstonwade24 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
All low budget movies have flaws and it is about how to overcome these flaws and setbacks that show what the heart and ability of cast and crew is really made of.

Van Damme gives a truly great performance no one would have ever thought possible out of him. It is impossible to see him as a tabloid fodder, B-movie actor or screw-up when it is over. You see Jean-Claude Van Damme: human being.

I have never had a movie make me think about how "bad choices" an actor may make in their career be seen more in the light of circumstances and the people surrounding them. Van Damme's plea to forgo his salary just to give a movie a legitimate budget so that it can be shot in a studio only to have it thrown back in his face by his agent who wants his 10% is almost heart wrenching. Only to end up agreeing to take a role, any role, just to pay the bills only to further destroy his career is seen in it's true light.

His daughter hurts him. You see him hurt. He's a person just like the rest of us. He makes mistakes, he lives up to those mistakes and he deserves forgiveness just like we do. Great movie. See it.
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10/10
Van Damme is astonishing, a cult is born !
Louis-Philippe13 October 2008
The story, I wont tell, you know it. So, no spoilers ! The "Van Damme" = this is what i'm gonna review. Van Damme got mature. Van Damme has stories in his eyes. Van Damme has life in his eyes. Van Damme has sadness in his eyes. Van Damme has regrets in his eyes. Van Damme has stuff to say to the world, to his audience. Van Damme have a message to deliver. He does in JCVD.

In JCVD, we see for the first time Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg, the man, amazing ! Not the character, the real man ! You can feel it from the screen. wow, very cool feeling I had.

The context of the film help Van Damme for telling the truth about his bad moments in life/career and conclude them. This movie close the bad Van Damme, it is a reborn. A therapy film for Van Varenberg.

The jokes (humor) is very well done, van damme can be very funny in his language. The action scenes are "real style" shouted. I liked it a lot. Good kicks in this film, few, but good, so powerful, the sound effects are awesome.

The monologue is astonishing, so Oscar winning performance ! Van Damme has secret about his daughter Bianca, stories....it is not easy to be a father (as an action figure) for a daughter. The relation between a daughter watching her "normal" dad in his Hollywood life/career is not easy.

Van Damme is really back on track.

JCVD The Movie : 10/10 Jean-Claude Van Varenberg, the most human-actor in Hollywood. 10/10
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10/10
His best film
edmond_henri4 June 2008
I saw it.

I will be quick 'cause I'm so tired (1 am here) but I know that my dreams will be funky...because the film is funky. I was at the avant-premiere tonight in Paris where Jean-Claude and the team introduced the film to the crowd. He was very cool and fun.

The film ? Simply hot (not that hot), funny and touching. And I cried, yes really, like a sissy girl, I cried during his long speech (you will understand when you will see the film, but JC summarizes his life and it's a magic moment). I don't want to spoil the film, but to me it's great one in his career, very mature, well written, many private jokes for us, well directed, well played (Jean-Claude is simply awesome like you never saw him before), many many fresh things, scenes, and moments. It's a heist film, maybe a small heist but a big film who swims on Dog day afternoon, Clerks and Rashomon, Tarantino mood with flash-backs, flash-forwards (the editing is hot), a very nice sound track (very Enter the dragon's Lalo Schrifrin)....

I didn't like Fellows films, The HardCorps, The Shepherd, but I LOVE his last film, so fresh, I love JCVD the movie.

I want to see it again this week-end. Mabrouk, JC, thank you...
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"Shooting pigeons . . ."
jdesando28 November 2008
"He'd still be shooting pigeons in Hong Kong," says one of the players In JCVD about director John Woo's debt to action star Jean-Claude Van Damme for their 1993 collaboration, Hard Target. Making that film may have been JCVD's greatest contribution to modern cinema although the current film with his initials in the title is more interesting than any previous kick-butt martial arts flick of his I can remember.

The story's framing device is Van Damme's fictional character of the same name unwittingly becoming a hostage in a bank robbery where his inability to extricate himself and the other hostages is a commentary on the impotence in real life of the mythical hero on the screen. The gritty, de-saturated look inside and outside the bank reminds me of the urban realism of Sidney Lumet's bank-heist Dog Day Afternoon. There's even a stringy-haired thug, but Van Damme is no Dustin Hoffman.

In this satire of his mercurial career as an action star, Van Damme ironically manages a mini-Mickey Rourke comeback by expressing feelings for his daughter and for the lost glamorous life of the Muscles from Brussels. His taciturn, expressionless persona is exactly what the satire needs to move it from a comedy about celebrity to a serious attempt to throw his identity into the existential arena. Indeed one long take in which he tearfully philosophizes about his troubled life is either ludicrous or a rather nice reflection on the vagaries of fame, albeit low rent. The other long take during the titles shows the aging hero fighting his way through a gauntlet of bad guys in a current movie. It's not bad given how bad Stallone could be in the same situation.

Van Damme has had real-life difficulties getting custody of his daughter and righting his tax problems, so JCVD is an apt imagining of his troubles. At some moments he does quite well taking his acting where it has never gone before. That he recently lost a role to Stephen Seagal, who agreed to cut his pony tail for the part, is less an indictment of Jean-Claude than it is a commentary on the vagaries of showbiz heroism.

"Sic transit gloria mundi."
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6/10
I appreciate the concept more than the execution
Mr-Fusion29 January 2016
The idea of a (once) movie star offering himself up for mockery and self-deprecation is interesting on so many levels, especially when it's a story of said wash-out being swallowed up in a takeover incident. Give Van Damme credit for being a good sport for this. More importantly, he proves himself here as an actor. On that basis alone, "JCVD" deserves your attention.

That said, the movie eventually settles into a groove that becomes a rut. That bank scenes are never as good as the sweet opening action extravaganza, or the time-out Van Damme takes late in the game to address the audience. It's during these two scenes that the movie really hits those high notes. But then it's back to the grinding hostage stuff.

6/10
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10/10
Who the hell knew that Van Damme could REALLY act?
fairdose26 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Damn!!! (or is it Damme?)

I normally cannot stand mindless action flicks or action movie stars like Steven Seagal, Bruce Willis, Sly Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris and the like - but reader, trust me on this one, you will never look at Jean Claude Van Damme the same way again after seeing this film. A searing indictment of what Hollywood does to people, Van Damme basically plays himself in this film, a washed-up Hollywood B-actor who has had his best days behind him with major financial, family and drug problems to deal with today.

The movie has it's moments of hilarity especially when it mocks Van Damme-isms, like "aware" or his take on Adam and Eve and the apple. For North American readers who don't know this, Van Damme has quite the cult following in Europe, not so much because of his films but some of the nonsensical things he has said in interviews in France and Belgium. There are websites devoted to this stuff and you can easily find them on YouTube. The film takes jabs and makes inside jokes of all Van Damme-isms. Van Damme also has a 5 minute monologue where he literally bares all and it is easily one of the best pieces of acting I've seen in years. You will not be disappointed. Run, don't walk, to see this film before it's gone.
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Fascinating and engagingly creative stuff that walks a fine line but pulls it off
bob the moo8 January 2009
I have to be careful here. I have to be careful because if you drink vinegar with every meal for several years then have a really cheap wine one day, it will taste glorious by comparison and you risk praising something cheap just because it is so much better than what has come before it. Those who have watched some of Van Damme's output over the last few years will know what I mean and, for those that do not I would say that a mere 30 minutes of "Second-in-Command" will tell you all you need to know. However at the same time I must not be careful to the point that I do not admit that I found this film fascinating, engaging, thrilling and creative – words that rarely appear individually anymore in reviews of a Van Damme film, let alone appearing together in one, but all of which apply here.

I temper this by saying that here and there JCVD is very close to being self-indulgent and artsy for artsy's sake and I can totally understand why many people will dislike this film. For those that look to him for action and see "plot" as being nothing more than the thing you have to have to create the action this film may disappoint as it is not his usual action-drama stuff. Whereas on the other side those that may appreciate what this film does may have decided decades ago that anything with Van Damme involved is not their sort of thing. For me though this film is worth approaching just to see what it does because, for its weaknesses it is still a great film. Why? Well it is down to what the film is. Years ago I saw Deconstructing Harry and was amazed at how folded in it was, how introspective and full of self-loathing and self-awareness: JCVD didn't quite do the same job for me but it is certainly doing the same sort of thing. The film is presented as real, with Van Damme playing himself. We see him in this "real" world making films like he has recently (Oriental director, low budget, low effort) but mainly it is played for "real", only to then at one point have Van Damme literally rise out of this "real" world into another, realer world and talk to the audience. This is one example but it is a good one of what the film is like as it gives Van Damme the chance to be honest and personal within this "reality".

At times this is funny and I particularly enjoyed the discussions on John Woo, the attitude of the "director" at the start of the film and the references to Seagal. More often it is actually quite hard to watch as Van Damme allows the film to put a lot of criticism at his feet and in his mouth. He acknowledges the standard of his recent films, his very public personal problems, his failings as a person and he allows himself to be mocked in the film in the way he is in real life – because the film is set in this real world. I know action heads may not agree but to me this brutality was more gripping than many of his action scenes – I sat very still the whole time, like if I moved I would disturb the film, break the spell and Van Damme would sober up, put up the defences and suddenly I would be back in the cheap action movie he is filming at the start of this film. But it doesn't, it carries on till the end and I loved it. Not all of it makes sense and I didn't get what it was doing/saying at each point but it was still really engaging.

What also surprised me was that the situation in the post office gripped me as well, even after it allowed Van Damme to exit it as a film! I would have expected it to be not real in my head but it was still surprisingly exciting. Credit to the El Mechri because the film is visually really clever and it matches the material, complimenting it. There are loads of clever shots, long takes, good music selection and so on. I do not know what else they have made but I will be making an effort to check out something else on the basis of this. Van Damme himself gives a really good performance – and not just by his standards. His monologue is what sticks in the memory but he does good work throughout it and I can believe it must be a very personal film to him because he seems totally sold into it and emotionally I felt for him and was held by a man reflecting and not liking all he found. The rest of the cast do well around him but the film belongs to Van Damme almost the entire time. Damiens, the main villain and a few others all give good support and there is a brief cameo from Vincent Cassell at the start.

The film will not please action fans and it also risks being taken as being too deliberately arty and introspective (or "up itself") by those coming to it for what it is. For me though I found it fascinating – a frank delivery of Van Damme as a man set within a fictional plot that actually works with a great performance from the man himself, all pulled together with a creative eye from director, cinematographer and editor that compliments the script throughout. It is not perfect and at times I wasn't sure what to make of it but it was engaging, clever and gripping in regards both tension and what it was doing generally. What he follows this with is anyone's guess but if I could only ever watch one Van Damme film again in my life, it would be this one by a country mile.
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8/10
The true potential of Van Damme
chrismsawin20 July 2010
Jean-Claude Van Damme has pretty much always been known as a cliché action movie star. He's known for his skills in various different types of martial arts and if you haven't seen any of his films, you can pretty much figure out what they're heavy on (and more than likely light on) considering his talents. Along comes JCVD, a film that tells the story of what it's like to be a washed up action star. Between his money problems and his ongoing custody battle for his daughter with his ex-wife, Van Damme has a full plate. So he decides to travel to Belgium, his homeland, to reconnect with his parents and hopefully just get away from all the headaches that come with living a Hollywood lifestyle. Then, a simple trip to the post office turns into a nightmare as Van Damme realizes he may not be walking out of there alive.

JCVD shows a side of Van Damme that nobody has really seen before. His acting chops take center stage this time around and it's incredible how much range he actually has. He's able to showcase the fact that he has a lot more talent than fans or the movie-going audience actually gave him credit for. There's a six minute monologue that might just be the best scene in the film. You can hear the pain in Van Damme's voice as the anguish he's going through bleeds through the words spilling from his mouth. Tears stream down his face as his face wrenches in torment. And then as quickly as the monologue begins, it ends. The scene itself, along with the way it was pulled off, is really the most memorable part of the film for me.

JCVD highlights all of the potential Jean-Claude Van Damme has as an actor. Not as an action movie star, but as a legitimate actor. Don't go into this expecting the usual bone breaking or face bashing someone may find in a film that Van Damme is usually found in. This film has a kick to it and not in the literal sense. It's an unexpected surprise that could put Van Damme back on top of his game, if played right. It could certainly do for him what The Wrestler did for Mickey Rourke. People who aren't fans of Van Damme's work will more than likely still enjoy this if they're willing to give it a chance.
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8/10
The Van Damme Soliloquy Redemption.
Spikeopath15 June 2010
Jean Claude Van Damme is down on his luck and feeling his age. Working on another cliché riddled movie and losing custody of his daughter, he enters a Brussels post office to get some much needed cash and lands in the middle of heist and hostage situation. Circumstance sees him suspected by the police as being the one responsible for the robbery, so as the crowds gather outside and the temperature rises inside the post office, Van Damme is forced to to take stock of his life.

You here the name Van Damme, you think of what? Big muscles, high kicking and action film's-lots of action film's. Some rather good-Bloodsport, Universal Soldier, Timecop, In Hell, and some rather dreadful-The Quest, Knock Off, Derailed. You would hardly associate him with a post-modern indie thriller comedy that showcases considerable acting talent; and something that showed the martial artist baring his soul. Now would you? But that's exactly what we get with JCVD. Directed by Mabrouk El Mechri, JCVD sees Jean-Claude Camille Francois Van Varenberg take pot shots at his own life and the way he has lived it. At first it seems like we are just observing another Van Damme movie as he lays waste to everyone in his path and saves the girl, but three minutes later, with the star out of breath, annoyed and agitated by his director, the film has veered to another place altogether.

It's at the point of Van Damme leaving the film set that we wonder if we are watching a spoof movie about the action star, but pretty soon it's evident that we are privy to something almost bizarre, even unique, yet immensely involving. His off screen troubles, and in fact his on screen monotony that clearly irks him, are played out for us under the guise of a post office robbery. Where the actor realises that his martial arts skills may not be enough to get him out of this situation alive. Then the clock ticks past the hour mark and the "fourth wall" is broken, Van Damme, hoisted above the set, delivers a near seven minute out pour of emotional reflection. To him it's an elegiac confession, to us it's a fascinating and riveting insight in to a man with as many lows as highs in his 25 plus year career. It's a tremendous bit of cinema, the kind that the French New Wavers would have been proud to call their own.

Away from the star, briefly, JCVD sees Mechri direct with no small amount of guts. His work for the actual siege is appealing, helped very much by Pierre-Yves Bastard's low tone photography. While the supporting actors inside the post office keep that part of the film very much on the high heat. There's much fun too, and some of it rightfully doesn't show Van Damme in the best of lights. It's hoped that most will find dialogue involving Steven Seagal, and a robber's attempt at a Van Damme roundhouse kick, highly amusing. But ultimately this is about Jean-Claude and that we get to see him as we have never seen him before, as a human being, and yes, as a skilled actor too. 8.5/10
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3/10
Shows promise, but disappoints in the end
Enchorde6 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Recap: Van Damme is losing his ground. He just lost a custody battle and he has trouble finding new roles. Even the bad ones seem to evade him. He returns to Belgium were he still is a hero, to find his footing and resurrect his career. But trouble seem to follow him. When he steps into a local post office he steps right into a robbery turned hostage situation, that the police isn't aware of yet. But when a shot goes off and a police officer sees Van Damme inside he draws the wrong conclusion that Van Damme is robbing the post office.

Comments: Actually started out somewhat promising. Van Damme has a good measure of self distance and humor (or possibly so desperate as the movie tries to show him, not likely) to do this. The director show some good hands juggling a broken timeline and being quite inventive by mixing a real life star into fiction and a classic hostage thriller. But after two thirds it derails completely. Suddenly we change the entire set up of the movie and enters a introspective state with Van Damme at the center. Everything stops to let Van Damme give a long, and unfortunately boring, monologue that just barely connects with the story. And after that we get to see multiple versions of the events, what really happens and what Van Damme dreams will happen. It just gets repetitive, predictable and as a result, boring.

The style which director El Mechri tries to implement in the second part is hard to accomplish, and he doesn't manage to do it. But such an abrupt change in style is almost worse. It's annoying when you have bought into a concept, that in itself isn't straightforward, that the effort for me as audience was for nothing. I almost felt cheated.

Van Damme acts well in what must be an unusual role. First off he must act as himself, or as the concept of his brand, and that must be hard. And second off it isn't much fighting, which usually is his strong parts. But he manages really well. Unfortunately he doesn't get any support at all from the others. Their acting is sub-par at best.

I have seen that director El Mechri has gained some attention for this. But from what I can see he has some talent and some good ideas, but in my opinion still has much to learn. He must learn when enough is enough and not mix too much into his movies. And he apparently gets credit for making Van Damme really act well, but isn't that credit due Van Damme instead when each and every other actor, also El Mechri's responsibility, acts really bad.

In conclusion I think it starts out really well, shows promise, but everything comes crashing down at the end, bringing the entire movie with it.

3/10
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9/10
Brooding Metaphysics
Theo Robertson19 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I got a PM from Bob The Moo who suggested JVCD as a recommendation . He also pleaded not to be put on my ignore list for doing so . I could understand Bob's fears since recommending a Jean Claude Van Damme movie is kind of like nominating JK Rowling for the Nobel prize for literature . Looking up JVCD on this website didn't fill me with much hope either because the " star " seems to be playing someone called Jean Claude Van Damme and I had serious doubts if Van Dumb could even pull off playing himself , but The Moo had put his credibility on the line so I was going to watch and find out what the fuss was about

Bob can rest easy in his bed because I was pleasantly surprised and perhaps even a little bit shocked at what I saw . The premise is on paper a simple " Gangsters hold some people hostages and Van Dumb has to do what a man has to do " but don't be fooled for a second because this is Michael Haneke territory . In fact in my review THE KING OF COMEDY I quoted Orwell " A man who speaks well of himself is usually lying because viewed from the inside life is simply a series of defeats " and this sums up JCVD perfectly . In some ways it's an meta-fictional interview with Jean Claude and he does not paint himself in a good light

I can't actually praise this approach enough . It's sublime and affecting as a brooding and bitterly introspective Jean Claude mentions his wives , his karate , the drugs he took and his film career . At no point does Jean Claude paint himself in a good light " What have I done in this world ? - Nothing " It might sound like self pity coming from a minor star who made a few action movies from yesteryear and now finds himself with a career that is effectively over but the line between introverted self analysis and morbid self pity is a very thin one indeed , thinner in fact than the line between love and hate , so I'll give Jean Claude the benefit of the doubt . I can't believe I'm writing this but I have something of a new found respect for the man even though I know I shouldn't . That's the power of cinema , a medium that can sometimes touch your soul

By bitter irony JVCD isn't a film that will really appeal to fans of action movies . It will appeal greatly to fans of European art house cinema and to those who like their movies that are a bit different but most of all JVCD will appeal to those of us who can empathise with Orwell's quote that " Life is simply a series of defeats " and genuinely know what it really means
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8/10
Damm! Van Damme is great here!
meeza14 November 2009
Jean Claude Van-Damme in a mesmerizing performance; I googled this phrase about two years ago and found zero search results, mmm! But guess what? That is a googling thing of the past because Van-Damme is damm good in the self-mockery independent flick "JCVD". This creative heist film stars Van-Damme as a take of Van-Damme in present day. Talk about your "double impact". Jean Claude is presented as an aging action star past beyond his movie prime time who is also nearly broke, and caught up in a legal battle with his wife for the custody of his daughter. In "JVCD", Van-Damme accidentally gets caught up in a Belgium post office heist and ends up being a hostage. However, his hometown paisanos, including the Belgium police, think he is the culprit of this coup. Talk about being a "hard target". So does Van-Damme avoid "sudden death" or does he wage a "bloodsport" war against the real kidnapping robbers? I cannot rob you of entertainment by providing the answer to that question. Writer-Director Mabrouk EL Mechri's innovative film-making punch of inserting the aging actor Van-Damme in a real life situation similar to the actor's past movie plot lines is the real kicker of "JCVD". The heist narrative concept is once again robbed here from past movies, but the whole aspect of having an action movie star be one of the hostages gives it a failsafe quality. During the film's third act, Van-Damme's gives out an emotional speech on his past fast lifestyle and present faded movie stardom which is by far the best acting scene of his career, or was he really acting? Was he really acting in all of his past movies anyways? All kicking aside, I mean kidding aside, Van-Damme does kick ass with his thespian arts in "JCVD". It will not be a "maximum risk" if you hustle to check out this self-mockery flick of the muscles from Brussels. **** Good
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10/10
So Shocked!
Luke Griffith12 September 2009
I was shocked after seeing this film, it was truly a great movie. After so many strait to DVD films of Jean-Claudes which personally have not been that great recently, I was shocked. Jean-Claude's acting in this film was really good, an Oscar winning performance if you ask me. The plot to this film was different than the original Jean-Claude Van Damme films. A lot of drama and it was thrilling and I actually laughed a lot. It go serious through out the film and deep, I would highly recommend this film to movie watchers from all over. If your not a fan of Jean-Claude of any kind I think you would still enjoy this film. A struggleing actor who is in a battle for custody for his daughter and is running low on money, returns to his hometown, to try and get cash from his bank. While attending to his bank, ends up becoming accused for a bank robbery that was taking place while he was visiting. This film has it all, great performances, a great story, it has laughter, it has drama, it has deep emotions and the characters are well focused on. This is a different side of Jean-Claude that I have never seen before and hopefully I will get to see more of in the future. Can't wait.
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8/10
Just another reason why Van Damme is the man.
BA_Harrison30 December 2012
Who would have thought it? Jean-Claude Van Damme in a post-modern meta-movie (at least that's what I think they call this kind of thing) in which he plays himself with brutal honesty as an ageing action star caught up in a real-life hostage situation. And who would have thought that it could possibly be this good?

Not me, that's for sure, but here it is, JCVD, a brilliantly original film starring the Muscles from Brussels as we've never seen him before—as a believable human being—one with real-life problems and a troubled past who has absolutely no desire to get himself killed when confronted by desperate gun-toting criminals.

With the Belgian superstar playing Van Damme the man rather than Van Damme the action hero, making this film is a gamble, one that risks alienating the star's existing fan-base due to a lack of slam-bang Van Damage, but hopefully it will earn him their respect—and the respect of movie-goers in general—as a bold performer willing to try something a little out of the ordinary.

Told in a non-linear fashion by director Mabrouk El Mechri, this tense, funny and dramatic movie is filmed in French with subtitles, with improvised scenes of dialogue and an amazing monologue by the star that proves he can really act, all of which may even have cinema-snobs sitting up and taking note.

In taking such a daring role in such a unique movie, by portraying himself as a man with flaws and weaknesses, and by acknowledging his mistakes, Jean-Claude has certainly become an even greater hero than ever before in the eyes of this particular fan.
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2/10
Utterly boring - and I'm sorry about that.
Peter-McLeod-2-52746915 March 2011
I have enjoyed lots of Jean Claude van Damme's films and have many, if not most, on VHS or DVD. Not all are classics but, of their genre and by and large, the best are very enjoyable and the few poorer ones whiled away a lazy hour or so.

Not so JCvD, I'm afraid. I found it desperately boring and self-indulgent. It strove, I suppose, to be a reflection of where his life has taken him and to be, perhaps, more cerebral than most of his offerings - but it was really dull.

I would guess that the film might appeal to those who are out and out fans of the actor himself - and thus interested in every detail of his life. For those looking for entertainment, however, this is one to miss.
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6/10
"Jean-Claude Van Damme's robbing a post office. I need back-up." Surprisingly smart & entertaining.
Paul Andrews16 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
JCVD is set in Brussels in Belgium where washed-up action star Jean-Claude Van Damme (executive producer Jean-Claude Van Damme) is fighting for custody of his young daughter Gloria, JCVD's lawyer wants to be paid & JCVD's credit cards don't work so he decides to stop off at a Post Office in the town of Shaerbeek to draw some money out of his account. However JCVD accidentally walks into the middle of a hold up as three armed men are robbing the Post Office, they take JCVD as a hostage & after a few shots are fired a policeman outside sees JCVD & assumes that he is the robber. In seconds the Belgium police are everywhere & the robbery has turned into a hostage situation, the robbers use JCVD to communicate with the police & his celebrity means the crime scene becomes a media circus & even the robbers themselves start to become starstruck...

This French, Luxembourg & Belgium co-production was directed Mabrouk El Mechri & is not what one would expect from a JCVD film, think of JCVD & I think of decent sometimes even good action fare but this is far from that & besides being genuinely surprised I really quite liked JCVD for what it was. JCVD is a strange & offbeat sort of film, the script pokes fun at JCVD himself with references to the cheap action films he makes, director's & producers who don't car about the finished film, the fact Hollywood has turned it's back on him, the media & fan attention he receives is playfully mocked & it even features his mom & dad. I suspect that JCVD is part autobiographical with JCVD fighting for custody of his daughter here when in real life he actually fought for custody of his son, the digs at Hollywood & for instance John Woo who abandoned him & there's this five minute monologue by JCVD who turns to the camera & talks to the audience about his drug problem, his insecurity with success & the trappings of fame amongst other things. JCVD is a fascinating character study, you get the feeling that the lines between fact & fiction are thinly drawn here & it's difficult to fathom what might have been based on a real event. The heist plot is also pretty good, JCVD gets stuck in the middle by accident & unlike his screen persona he's no hero here, he doesn't save the day & ends up going to jail at the end. I don't know, I just really liked this off the wall & odd little film that almost defies categorisation as it's not really an action film, it's not strictly an autobiography, it's not really a drama & while it has quite a bit of humour & never takes itself seriously JCVD isn't a comedy either & I guess it lies somewhere between them. At over 90 minutes it breezes by & the unusual narrative is also refreshing, the story unfolds from several perspectives & dips back in time every so often to get a different viewpoint or explain something or show what happened sometime earlier.

For some reason the whole film has a very desaturated look, it's a very brown film with very little colour, in fact I don't think there's any bright colours here at all & it does get a bit bland looking. There's no real action scenes here, the opening features a long continuous shot of JCVD avoiding explosions & beating bad guy's up but that's part of a film he is making. Another aspect of JCVD I didn't expect was that 99% of the film is in French so be warned you will have to read the subtitles which will be a deal killer for some but I didn't mind too much.

Filmed in Brussels in Belgium the film looks good, the sepia tone dulls the picture but it's well made enough I suppose. The acting is good here, JCVD is pretty good in this while the rest of the cast are unknowns (at least to me anyway).

JCVD was much better than I expected although having said that it wasn't anything like I expected, as a fun yet never mean look at JCVD himself wrapped up in a fairly good heist film I liked it. Not what many will expect but I think it will be better than many expect, I liked it.
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9/10
A film even non-fans can appreciate.
David_C_Frison16 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
About the movie: This tender and poetic piece captures the essence of not only it's lead actor but also the town it takes place in, with its saturated dirty streets, its forever grey skies and the people who are so deeply part of the land that they too are unapologetically unrefined in their honesty. The objective of this film is clear and has been reached, yet room was left for humor, in two scenes in particular by means of non-overdone action. Not at all to praise Jean-Claude and his style, but instead to show us what action/violence represents to JCVD. A little redundancy in the flashback scenes pulls you out a bit, but not enough to spoil the enjoyment of the story.

About the director: Mabrouk El Mechri has to be a fan for knowing about the many details pertaining to Jean-Claude's personal life invoked very subtly throughout the movie by some of the characters' quotes, actions and mannerisms. It is true that speaking in your native tongue, and about a topic that is also personal, will improve one's acting performance, and what a performance Jean-Claude allows us witness. To meet that objective, Mabrouk El Mechri cleverly let the actors improvise with each other in some scenes.

About Jean-Claude: Jean-Claude Van Damme is perceived around the world very differently than in the French speaking community alone. In the latest, by means of many interviews, he is mocked and teased for his ways of expressing his never-ending honesty and vulnerability. It is agreed that his messages and philosophies, however deep and powerful, are undermined by his un-Shakespearian – or unworthy of Molière in this case – delivery. The spirit of this man is so righteous that in order to keep it intact, he is doomed to dig deep and find enough courage to stand against selfish, unkind and quick judgments of the media and the masses. His integrity never cracked is nonetheless shaken. So, in this movie, Jean-Claude Van Damme's struggle is explained by himself beautifully using of the analogy of a pure, virtuous and trusting martial artist child from a humble town who ends up in Los Angeles, a city where deceit is commonplace.
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