Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actor: Jean-Claude Van Damme
Director: Mabrouk El Mechri
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Peace Arch Home Entertain Release Date: 04/28/2009 Run time: 97 minutes Rating: R
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An Astonishing Masterpiece
Steven Stewart | Liverpool | 02/05/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Now like many I too accept that Jean Claude Van Damme isn't the greatest actor in the world. He's an action hero after all and much like Steven Seagal, he's someone we wouldn't usually expect a 5 star acting performance from. He's just used to kicking people in the head and looking all attractive whilst doing so. Now he's older and currently a man who's career was absolutely dying a death, at least until this film was made and now he has the possibility to be back on form and revive his career as a more serious actor.
So what makes this film different from all the rest? I hear you ask. Well for one he's not playing some clichéd character who you end up shouting "kick his head off" at. He's actually playing himself in a fictional setting and as strange as it sounds it actually allows him to display much more acting talent than you would have first thought.
So what's the film about? I hear you secondly ask. Well, JCVD's life isn't going too well and is constantly in battle to win movie roles but is constantly beaten by his rival Steven Seagal. His wife has divorced him and is in legal battles for the right to have access to his daughter. He also has quite a few tax and money troubles to boot, so to escape his troubles he decides to go home to his native Belgium only this isn't as peaceful as he'd hoped.
Upon his arrival in Belgium he goes into a Post Office, and after his fans tell a local policeman that the legendary Jean Claude Van Damme is home and in the local post office. Then out of nowhere a gunshot rings from the post office sending people into a panic and shocked that it turns out to be the movie star himself holding up the post office, or is it?
Well what entails is a film about hostage negotiation and a traumatic movie star life that is topped off with a difficult situation. It's not the typical JCVD film as it contains very little fighting karate style, but the film is made truly special with the defining monologue. Roughly half way through the film, JCVD is brought away from the story and the film in quite a strange style that allows him to deliver a monologue that gives the impression it comes straight from the heart. He talks about his life and career and how he wants to be remembered as a more serious actor. I got the impression that a lot of the monologue although in a scripted movie, was actually improvised or at least written by JCVD himself.
I would highly recommend this film to any JCVD and non-JCVD fan as it's truly his best work to date. This is seriously a possible breakthrough movie for him to bring his career back up to speed and rather than continuing to star in "straight to DVD" movies like this one, sadly, he may be given more movies that start in the cinema and give him a wider appeal as the man is still a name that captures peoples interests.
Get it, you wont be disappointed."
JCVD - What A Movie!
Robert Witmer | Sebring, FL United States | 02/06/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I came upon a crowd outside a movie theater bearing the title: JCVD. The theater is jammed with dedicated fans having memories of Van Dammes past International super star status from the 1988 Bloodsport.
What a movie! It likely surpassing the collective expectations from the start of the entire audience. The opening scene rocks. A 4-minute film within a film begins with vintage-like Van Damme moments of high energy action. This single-shot sequence unfolds vamping up Van Dammes pre-existing persona in dynamic fashion. Then this incredible assembly of action ends with a hilarious fake wall falling over when a door is simply slammed too hard by a winded and exhausted Van Damme blithely complaining to a movie director, who couldnt care less (as in real life), that he is 47 and it is simply too hard to do these mad action scenes at his age!
The film then pivots under the young but world class directorship of Mabrouk El Mechri to the main story, where the audience is treated to a Van Damme they have never seen before acting with incredible depth and character. This transformation from a shallow bigger-than-life action hero to portraying true down-to-life emotions will be worth the admission alone.
Van Dammes dramatic performance and his featured monologue --- are remarkable. The director caught Van Damme on film in a way to make any audience celebrate with rousing enthusiasm alongside Van Damme as he convincingly relates his belief in the American dream, then address his marriage and drug problems of his past, and how he wants a second chance to make a difference in the world. It is one of those cinema moments bordering on being a masterpiece; it re-invents Van Damme.
The camera floats through the chaos of Van Dammes life and caresses Van Dammes face that has taken on a good amount of character. 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 a message to deliver. The movie cleverly uncovers the pitfalls behind celebrity status with humor that Van Damme does very well.
The plot borrows on Van Dammes trying past. Playing himself, a beaten and depressed Van Damme returns to his native Belgium in hopes of getting out of the limelight. Van Damme is financially drained and makes a bee line to his home bank. But the Belgium bank is in the midst of being robbed. Van Damme is caught up in the ensuing mayhem as the police on arrival wrongly assume Van Damme is part of the robbery team. The actual criminals are enjoying extravagant good luck. Not only do they have Belgiums biggest movie star in their control, but through his ill-luck he is also taking the fall for them! In trying to find a way out, Van Damme realizes his Hollywood action roles of his past all fall flat when a real gun is pressed to his head.
This is a movie to be seen, not merely read about. Not only is Van Damme re-born but so too is the audience through a shared experience with Van Dammes factual failures and triumphs! (Dr. R. Witmer, Ph.D. co-author of Van Dammes Biography appearing [...])
Kicks Just Keep Gettin' Harder to Find
Karen Shaub | the inner reaches of the outer limits | 05/14/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"JCVD is just what all the other reviews claim, it is a tour de force for Jean-Claude Van Damme the actor. If you're renting this expecting anything at all in the way of action then you are going to be extremely disappointed because apart from the opening scene (which turns out to be a scene from a movie he is supposedly filming) there is a total of two kicks, an elbow, and maybe a punch. I think that perhaps as Van Damme nears 50 has realized that his career as an action star is living on borrowed time and that this film might serve as his calling card to the world of serious film-makers, at least in Europe. And it definitely does that in a most impressive fashion. With the making of this film the Muscles from Brussles proves himself to be undoubtedly the most talented thespian of all kwailo martial artists, and probably most Asian martial artists as well. Here he presents himself as amiable-- though world weary, down trodden, and scrambling to hold together the last vestiges of his fading career, and he does so very convinvcingly. Its been said that the most difficult thing for an actor to play is himself. If that's the case then Van Damme deserves an Oscar."
Deconstructing The Action Movie Star
darklordzden | Australia | 07/22/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of the most audacious pieces of metafiction to find it's way onto mainstream cinema screen, Mabrouk El Mechri's "JCVD" is a film that is sure to divide audiences neatly down the middle.
Die-hard fans of the leading acronym-in-question who are only interested in seeing him indulge in hyperkinetic karate moves whilst engaging in the kind of cliched hyperbole which was dated by the late nineteen eighties are advised to stay well clear of this film as it is does nothing less than deconstruct our notions of his onscreen persona, what we know of his life, his dwindling celebrity and the conventions of the action genre that have catapulted him to both stardom and obscurity.
Opening with a bravura single-shot action sequence - which only serves to illustrate the fakery and artifice of screen violence - we are introduced to a man who is feeling his age whilst sifting through the remains of a shattered career, abortively attempting to stave off bankruptcy and win legal custody of his daughter. This very portraiture is a cliche in and of itself - after all, how many times have we seen endless Hollywood blockbusters open with our hero enter the narrative in the role of down-on-his-luck underdog? - and we are treated to numerous tropes of genre cinema and Hollywood lore (the courtroom hearing, the meeting with the shyster showbiz manager, the taxi-cab ride) throughout it's running time.
As the film proceeds, in a fractured non-linear fashion, Van Damme 'the man' finds himself inadvertently caught up in a botched post-office robbery which resembles nothing less than the pivotal event of Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon - indeed the lead bank-robber resembles the late John Cazale in that film to such an extent that it's impossible to assume that it can be an accident. Whilst supposedly engaging in a 'realistic' narrative the director is clearly drawing attention to the inherently artificial nature of the film; A theme which is made even more explicit when, about three quarters of the way through the film, Van Damme levitates through the ceiling of the claustrophobic post-office set and directly addresses the audience in a confessional in which he ruminates on their relationship, his past, his triumphs, his failures, his lack of authenticity and his complicity in it all - its an astonishing piece of acting and one which goes against all of our expectations of an action star who has never really been allowed to 'act' onscreen. But even here the audience is made aware of the essential artifice and fakery of Van Damme's soliloquy because he performs it against a backdrop of studio lights. It may seem real, but you're watching him perform it against the backdrop of a set. There is nothing beneath the persona but another persona - don't be fooled by the fact that it looks more realistic than the one we're used to. Indeed, for anyone who has still not picked up on this theme, the film's denouement ultimately draws the audiences attention to the conceits and failures of genre film-making in an overt piece of cinematic chicanery. Deconstruction in action cinema is nothing new, but it's mechanics have seldom been so brazenly paraded.
A fascinating piece of cinema and an intriguing insight into society's tendency to confer status and meaning onto celebrities whom we've never met, "JCVD" is a film that you do not want to miss."