JCVD

JCVD

JCVD (2008, Director: Mabrouk El Mechri): At just 47 years-old, Jean-Claude Van Damme (JCVD) is look­ing really old and tired. He’s a fad­ing action hero like Sylvester Stallone and Steven Seagal. What could be a bet­ter way to get back in the spot­light than make a film about your­self, warts and all? It worked for Pauly Shore, sort of.

Van Damme plays him­self in this action-com­edy. He walks into a bank rob­bery and gets taken host­age with sev­eral oth­ers. The police mis­takenly believe that Van Damme has gone over the edge and that he alone is behind the rob­bery and host­age-tak­ing.

This isn’t your typ­ical Van Damme action film. Instead, it exam­ines the nature of fame. It shows how false the notion of celebrity can be. The host­age crisis shows Jean-Claude to be a reg­u­lar guy who fears for his life in a dan­ger­ous situ­ation. He may be a fam­ous Belgian movie star, but he’s also in the middle of a child cus­tody battle, broke, and los­ing movie roles to that damn Steven Seagal.

All of this leads up to a bizarre mono­logue whereby Van Damme looks dir­ectly at the cam­era and pours out his soul for 9 minutes. I’ve never seen any­thing like it, but the scene abso­lutely works. At the Q&A after the film, dir­ector Mabrouk El Mechri revealed that this entire scene was kept secret from the crew until the moment of shoot­ing.

A lot of the scenes in JCVD were impro­vised. El Mechri had a script but quite often let the act­ors come up with their own dia­logue. The res­ults are very funny and in El Mechri’s words, “bet­ter than the dia­logue [he] came up with.”

This film gen­er­ated a lot of buzz at Cannes which is sure to con­tinue after the screen­ings in Toronto. Tonight’s crowd at the Ryerson Theatre loved the film and it was a great way to kick off the Midnight Madness pro­gram at TIFF ’08.

I found the film to be unique and quite enjoy­able des­pite the com­par­is­ons to Being John Malkovich (1999). If you’ve ever wondered what happened to the “Muscles from Brussels” then JCVD is your answer.

This entry was posted in Film Festivals, TIFF and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to JCVD

  1. Very curi­ous about this one ever since I saw it in the lineup. Glad one of y’all saw it, and am even more curi­ous now. Thanks for the review, Jay!

    PS: I miss Toronto. Gotta get back to the fest someday.

Comments are closed.