Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I am glad I finally got a chance to see director Mabrouk El Mechriís rather odd film ĎJCVDí because I have heard a lot of good things about it, most of which are fairly justified I might say. Itís funny though because if you observe the number of critics weighing in on this film it is well over a hundred for what is conceivably a bit of an Ďartí film but if you look a Van Dammeís previous films an observe the numbers it is far more meager. Eight here, a dozen or so there as these so-called Ďcriticsí have no desire to sully themselves and watch a movie like ĎThe Hard Corpsí or say something along the lines of ĎUntil Deathí. Nope, theyíre too good for that. But not us Jean-Claude, those of us who never left you behind. Iím talking about those of us who watched and weighed in on ĎSecond in Commandí and ĎThe Shepherd: Border Patrolí. Replicant. Wake of Death. Now Iím not saying that some of those movies didnít suck, and suck hardÖ Iím just saying that we were there because we never went anywhere. So just remember who your TRUE friends are Mr. Van Damme as you bask in the glory of your regained favor with ĎJCVDí.

It would be hard to watch the opening scene of ĎJCVDí and not smile just a little bit as we see a decidedly withered Jean Claude doing what he does in a stylized action sequence ending in a complete and total thud with Van Damme, playing himself, complaining to his completely disrespectful Chinese director how the scene sucks and how his current age really doesnít parlay well into him continuing doing this kind of stuff. Fast forward to Jean Claude in a Los Angeles court where his ex-wifeís lawyer is using his violent action movies as evidence against Van Damme in a custody hearing. Seems suspect, but what do I know about the law?

So with his professional and personal life in tatters, Jean Claude heads back to Brussels, where it all started, to get his head on straight. Unfortunately things only get worse as Van Damme finds himself in the middle of a robbery at a post office. I am assuming that post offices in Brussels have lots of money. Worse still is that the authorities believe that Van Damme is the one behind the robbery, especially considering in this

particular reality that he is stone broke, is losing roles to Steven Seagal and has legal fees out the ying yang that he canít afford.

Outside thereís a complete frenzy as an O.J. Simpson type atmosphere has gathered as the populace has learned that their favored native son is holed up post in a office taking hostages, and inside things are considerably worse as the leader of this crew could care less about Jean Claude Van Damme and would surely kill him dead as shake his hand. But this is all about the man coming to grips with the man and who the man is... that man being Jean Claude Van Damme.

Van Damme gets the rap for not being a very good actor, and itís not a bad rap because he really isnít that great of an actor but what this film has displayed to me is that this is possibly more of a language issue than the fact the man is devoid of talent. I remember working with a woman from Lithuania who has been in this country for a while and her telling me that despite the fact her English is quite good, she still has to translate everything she hears on the fly into her native language. In all my years of watching Jean Claude Van Damme movies I donít think Iíve ever heard the man speak French, and if he did, he didnít speak it much. Now given the opportunity to act, as it were, in his native tongue without the burden of translating everything in a way he understands, I gotta to hand it to the man, he was pretty good in this. I guess it also didnít hurt that he was playing a character he was quite familiar with and it also didnít hurt that the man obviously doesnít take himself too terribly seriously considering how he allowed a lot of personal issues to be aired out and made fun of, with a few embellishments Iím sure.

The most amazing thing that El Machri and Van Damme have done with this movie is that they have taken a man who has had four wives, a notorious cocaine problem, has apparently squandered a fortune and has often come off in interviews sounding like a complete loon, to what I am again going blame on language, and they have made you feel sorry for him. Amazing. The story surrounding the man is interesting enough, it does keep things moving and there are some interesting characters who serve the purpose of bringing up an issue here and there... Iím thinking that Mr. Van Damme might have a little problem with legendary Hong Kong director John Woo, but rarely does the film deviate far from its subject matter. I should mention that Iím a BIG John Woo guy, but I am glad heís back in Hong Kong where he belongs.

ĎJCVDí is a very interesting and unique movie and Van Damme should be lauded, no matter how the movie may have turned out, for even taking on a role as self effacing as this one. Hopefully now he can get back to doing what we expect him to do which is speak bad English in action movies and round house kick people to the face. Watch them disappear again Jean Claude, but observe the few who wonít be going any freaking where.

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