Monday, June 7, 2010
As far as I was always concerned, Jean-Claude Van Damme was always a talented and skilled martial artist. He just happened to show it off in movies. As for the acting department...not so much. No one ever says "Have you seen Van Damme's latest movie? It's so emotionally engaging!" Surprisingly however, it wouldn't be too far off to say that about his self-titled film from back in '08, JCVD.
Van Damme stars in a semi-autobiographical film about himself, where he is held as hostage in a bank during a heist. While this is purely coincidental, the criminals decide to use Van Damme's social status to their advantage in not only making the heist successful, but walking out with a whole lot more cash as well. To do this, they force Van Damme to pretend that he is the one holding up the bank.
Before Van Damme even steps foot in the bank, you watch as his life is slowly going downhill; he is considerably broke, is in the middle of a lawsuit for custody of his daughter, and to top it off, that bastard Steven Seagal keeps stealing his roles. The only thing of his that doesn't seem to be being destroyed is his reputation, at least in Belgium, as he is praised and cheered for every corner he turns. His name is even chanted during the heist, despite the belief that he is the one responsible for it.
To be completely honest, this would probably be a mostly mediocre film if it wasn't for one scene in particular, in which Van Damme breaks the fourth wall and makes a 6 to 7 minute, one-shot "confession" to his audience. He addresses several personal matters, such as past drug addictions and his reputation in the States as a "B-Movie" action star, not too different from my biased opinion as I stated before. This scene is a very sincere and honest one, and I would be very surprised to find out if anything he says was scripted. It's obvious however that it was Van Damme's goal to open up to his audience for a few minutes to see the real man inside, and earn a little more respect. You might call me a sucker, but it totally worked. Well done, sir.
Aside from that scene, this is definitely a quality film, with decent acting to go around, and a terrific, one-shot opening sequence with Van Damme on set of a fictional movie. The story is told in the narrative similar to that of Pulp Fiction, where the scenes are all scattered and out of order. While this isn't the most original of ways to tell a story nowadays, it is still done very smoothly. It also doesn't exactly have the conclusion that most people were probably hoping for (the film even teases the audience about that), but that wouldn't have been very believable and probably would have been borderline ridiculous. I only hope that Van Damme would be more liberal to dramatic roles in the future, but sadly, that doesn't seem to be the case. Perhaps it's better that he sticks to doing what he does best, which is breaking bones.
Word of advice: the version on Netflix Instant Streaming is (horribly) overdubbed in English, so I suggest getting the real, French-spoken version.