The story of Jean-Claude van Damme is just not at all times essentially the most uplifting of ones. From his humble origins rising up in Brussels, dreaming desires of turning into a well-known actor whereas working as a florist to assist himself, to his success as one of the crucial iconic action stars of his time seems like precisely the type of rags-to-riches story Hollywood would write itself. His choice to pack up his issues and transfer to America in pursuit of his dream, working quite a lot of odd jobs to make ends meet whereas often incomes bit roles in low-budget movies, solely to lastly strike gold after six years of hardship with the discharge of his breakout movie Bloodsport, is stuff even essentially the most coldblooded of individuals can discover inspirational. However, as real-life so usually reminds us, there’s no such factor as fortunately ever after.

By the mid-Nineteen Nineties he had developed a severe drug behavior, and a string of behind-the-scenes controversies (mixed with a closely typecast picture) put a dampener on his profession. By the flip of the century his profession largely consisted of bland straight-to-DVD releases that relied solely on nostalgia for a bygone period, hardly the stuff of Hollywood gold.

Outdoors of that, his popularity for colourful proverbs on a variety of subjects (corresponding to his notorious brag about having the ability to crack walnuts along with his buttocks) have made him the topic of a lot mockery. That younger child from Brussels could have achieved his purpose of Hollywood stardom, nevertheless it in all probability wasn’t the idyllic paradise he’d hoped for.

It’s precisely this fractured dream that kinds the idea of JCVD, a 2008 crime drama that boasts not solely Van Damme’s biggest efficiency, but additionally serves as an interesting examination of his profession and the plight of turning into a well-known actor. The movie, a meta-fictional drama directed by Mabrouk el Mechri, sees Van Damme taking over essentially the most difficult position of his profession: himself.

Van Damme, an out-of-luck actor who’s at present dropping a custody battle for his daughter to his newest ex-wife, finds his state of affairs going from dangerous to worse when he finds himself embroiled in a submit workplace heist in his hometown of Brussels. However this plotline could be very a lot only a basis from which to investigate Van Damme as an individual, with all his previous digressions (corresponding to his aforementioned drug dependancy or his declining relevance in mainstream movies) being laid naked in all their unwavering torment. It’s a courageous choice for Van Damme to seem in a task that’s as unflinchingly brutal as this, however the consequence is likely one of the most compelling movies about movies ever made, and one which proves that Van Damme is able to way over simply senseless action.

The opening of JCVD establishes the movie’s thesis completely. Barely one second has elapsed earlier than Van Damme has deployed his signature kick on an unsuspecting guard, with the digicam then pulling again to indulge the viewers with a formidable one-shot action scene as he slaughters his means by an enemy guerrilla camp. It’s a sequence that evokes recollections of the Vietnam Conflict opening from Common Solider, one in all his most profitable movies, nevertheless it’s additionally one which exists for extra than simply inane violence. In actuality that is nothing greater than a movie set, and the thrill of the earlier minutes rapidly disintegrates when Van Damme begins arguing with the director about how demanding it’s for an almost fifty-year-old actor to carry out all these stunts in a single unbroken shot.

Not that the director cares, since he appears extra involved about throwing darts into an image of the Hollywood signal (hardly essentially the most delicate piece of images) whereas complaining that his lead actor nonetheless thinks they’re making the following Citizen Kane. It’s a second that completely encapsulates Van Damme. He’s an actor with an unquestionable love for cinema who desires to make movies he could be happy with, however his popularity for showing in tacky action movies means he’s caught remaking the identical movies time and again. It’s laborious to shake the sensation that Van Damme has had this precise dialog with a lot of his administrators, and it lays the groundwork for the bitter self-reflection to return.

JCVD’s closing moments kind the proper cap on the movie’s message. Van Damme is escorted at gunpoint out of the submit workplace, with a crowd of cops ready for a clear shot with which to lastly finish this carnage. However this isn’t an harmless civilian we’re speaking about, that is Jean-Claude van Damme, who takes the initiative to roundhouse kick his assailant to a refrain of cheers from his onlookers. Besides that’s not what occurred, with the picture being nothing greater than a figment of Van Damme’s creativeness that simply makes him look extra pathetic than the rest. Actual-life is way much less attention-grabbing, with Van Damme simply unadventurously elbowing his kidnapper earlier than the police do all of the laborious work. And even after every thing he nonetheless finds himself in jail for a yr.

If Van Damme movies sometimes finish in a blaze of explosions along with his newest love curiosity pining over him, JCVD ends with him in a good worse state of affairs than when he began. A downbeat picture, however one made much more tragic on reflection. Whereas JCVD ought to have led to a profession resurgence for the actor, it in the end fell below the radar. As of late his profession continues to be dominated by straight-to-DVD trash which, in an odd means, serves as a becoming coda that confirms that harsh truths JCVD spent its runtime expounding. These on the lookout for a extra conventional Van Damme expertise could discover it underwhelming, however for everybody else it makes for an interesting examination into the lifetime of a Hollywood actor, and one that’s solely enhanced by familiarity of his work.

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