Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

Film Review: JCVD

Some actors are born great, some acquire greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. However for some the road is less easily trodden, they glimpse greatness, come crashing down, appear in Streetfighter the movie (alongside Kylie) before being seemingly cast away on the scrapheap of actors who we laugh at for their previous errors.

One such case is Jean Claude Van Damme, the muscles from Brussels, who delivered hammy line after hammy line delivered with all the panache of a dry bread  roll, rivaled only by the pony tailed assassin of scripts Steven Seagal. How we laughed at him, clearly all muscles was not the way to Oscar glory.

I’ve never really been a fan of the Van Damme/Seagal film – sure they’re great after a few pints at 1am after a heavy night of dance and explaining the intricacies of the offside trap or how deep down you could have been an actor but chose not to to pursue a career in marketing or perhaps quantity surveying – but not enough plot, interest (other than in kung foo action) or convincing dialogue had boxed them in a tight niche.

So when I decided on a whim to purchase JCVD on Amazon one cold rainy evening I was surprised with myself – had I been ill, perhaps I’d been in the midst of a fit or had had a brief Daily Mail moment. Indeed when the DVD arrived at work shock and awe went around as I unveiled it in all its glory – what had I done, had I lost my credibility, could I read The Guardian ever again?

How wrong I was, JCVD is genuinely one of the most surprising, interesting, exciting and brilliant films I have seem in the past few years. Following a ‘real life’ Jean Claude Van Damme as he returns to Belgium following a failed custody battle for his daughter, a string of box office disasters and financial meltdown, ‘the muscles’ soon finds himself in trouble as he is taken hostage in a bank siege gone wrong.

So how does he react I hear you ask? A couple of roundhouse kicks to the abdomen? Perhaps he back flips over machine gun fire while detaining suspects (we all know they’re guilty despite a lack of legal process don’t we!) with jabs to the back of the knees that cause instant paralysis.

No, he reacts with some of the best acting in the last 10 years, self deprecating, honest, believable and gutsy. The DVD cover say’s ‘Van Damme’s Best Film In 15 Years’ and I completely disagree, it should be ‘The best film in the past 2 years!’ There are moments in this masterpiece, and I use that word most deservedly,  where you forget about Van Damme of the past and recognize a truly brilliant actor who understands the genre, understands people’s perceptions of him and understands how to subvert both in a single uncompromising blow.

I would love to go on to explain some of the best moments of this film but would hate to ruin moments for anyone watching this film. It deserves a wider audience and to be seen, JCVD the man needs to make more films of this quality and reclaim his place at the altar of Hollywood, JCVD could be the first step leading him on his way.





, ,