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218 out of 237 people found the following review useful:

JCVD like we have never seen him before

9/10
Author: Kevin Schwoer from United States
7 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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198 out of 213 people found the following review useful:

A pleasant surprise

8/10
Author: wismerhill from Paris, France
4 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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170 out of 190 people found the following review useful:

The best I've seen from Van Damme

8/10
Author: robby-deblauwe from Belgium
22 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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143 out of 155 people found the following review useful:

Interesting movie, with a terrific performance by Van Damme.

7/10
Author: Squeele
5 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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77 out of 87 people found the following review useful:

Spectacular

8/10
Author: Craig McPherson from Montreal, Canada
22 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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94 out of 131 people found the following review useful:

Van Damme is astonishing, a cult is born !

10/10
Author: Louis-Philippe from Canada
13 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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98 out of 139 people found the following review useful:

His best film

10/10
Author: edmond_henri from Paris, France
4 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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64 out of 80 people found the following review useful:

The direction makes all the difference

9/10
Author: dridi_i from Canada
12 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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44 out of 51 people found the following review useful:

Wow! One of the most original, dazzling films of the year!

10/10
Author: Thomas Jolliffe (supertom-3) from Marlow, England
9 December 2008

*** This review may contain 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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49 out of 61 people found the following review useful:

A great movie. Oscar-worthy performance.

10/10
Author: houstonwade from Seattle
24 November 2008

*** This review may contain 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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