Monday, July 6, 2009

Movie Review: JCVD - Van Damme Flexes His Heart Muscle

I have never thought much of Jean-Claude Van Damme, so one has to wonder why I would watch this movie. It's called JCVD, starring one Jean-Claude Van Damme, or, as he admits (partially) in the movie: Jean-Claude Camille Francois Van Vaerenbergh. Good job to whoever told him to get a stage name.

This, however, is anything but a typical Van Vaerenbergh movie. The plot is deliciously, if not a bit ridiculously, self-referential. The Muscles from Brussels plays himself in this film. He is a huge action movie star who feels that all of his movies are crappy, low-budget action movies that will never amount to anything. As his director asks in the opening scene, "He still thinks we're making Citizen Kane?" In other words, this actor, Jean-Claude Van Vaerenbergh, longs to create art, and we can only imagine this film is his attempt to do just that.

At the beginning of the movie, he gets into a custody battle over his daughter after his most recent movie shoot, hits some money problems, and heads back to Brussels to try to "get a new start". A few minutes later, we see him making demands from the police chief from inside of post office full of hostages. He's now starring in his own personal real-life action movie. It's an interesting interpretation of "get a new start", but let's roll with it.

I won't go into much more detail about the plot because I severely hate spoilers, but the movie was actually pretty enjoyable. I won't say I loved it, but I genuinely liked it. The movie is entirely in French, though I saw a dubbed version, but I didn't mind too much. The acting seemed competent, and I found myself really sympathizing with JCCFVV as an actor as he laments his "plight" of being an international movie star. At other times though, the movie almost gets a bit preachy; you get the feeling that this is a Belgian movie defending their international superstar and trying to play him up to the world, including a bizarre prayer/rant sequence that calls out American moviegoers.

There were a few other interesting characters in the movie, and some plot turns that had me guessing. The filming seemed quite good (the opening action sequence was cool and done entirely in one take) and the musical score was effective, if not almost a bit over-dramatic at times. I get the feeling this director would do an excellent horror movie if he hasn't already.

There were a few plot inconsistencies - some characters didn't really act in a way that made sense, and there were some loose ends I would have preferred to have been tied up, but it was fun to see JC2FV2 playing a serious, dramatic role, and doing a decent job at it. All in all I enjoyed it - check it out if you're feeling like something a bit different. I give it a 7 / 10.

Plus, for those following my Netflix Diet, this was 90 minutes of elliptical work - so go me. :)

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