While I was sitting in the theatre today waiting for my next movie to start I was listening to to the people behind me talk about JCVD and Jean Claude Van Damme’s previous movies. Later, after that movie I was browsing the web and I came across a review of JCVD that neatly matched up with the discussion that the audience members were having. The discussion focussed not on JCVD but on what is expected in a Van Damme movie. No one watches his movies for acting the simply watch him for spin kicks. We’ll I have to say that I went into JCVD with the exact opposite intention. I wanted a movie that didn’t rely on his just his kicking skills but instead I wanted a movie that had a point to it while being fun and entertaining and I wanted a chance to see Van Damme actually act.
JCVD opens with an amazing minute or two single shot fight scene which rivals any long take from any action movie. The only thing though is that you know going in that this isn’t going to be your typical Van Damme generic action movie. This is a movie that will poke fun at the whole nature of celebrity, Hollywood and just who Jean Claude actually is. In JCVD everyone refers to Van Damme as Jean Claude so I am going to do likewise. Jean Claude takes aspects of his actual personal life and intertwines it with the story of a bank robbery where everyone naturally assumes that he is the culprit. Jean Claude is having money troubles because of his wanting to complete a real movie and a custody battle over his daughter. He returns to Belgium after a humorous yet extremely heart felt trial where the main case against him is that he kills people in bad movies. Upon his return his money troubles cause him to stop in a bank to receive a wire transfer where he stumbles into the bank robbery. The police immediately believe him to be the one robbing the bank.
The bank robbery is told in 4 parts which jump around in time. The first part we only see what the police see. The second through 4th we get a combined view which pushes forward the story while also giving glimpses of what has lead Jean Claude to this point. For me this is the one real weakness of the movie. The bank robbery started to drag during a few moments while it was repeating the story from a different perspective. There is a lot to like and even love in JCVD though.
Jean Claude is capable of acting. I truly felt sorry for him at several points throughout the movie and I was truly rooting for him not as an action hero but as a real person. He is able to laugh at himself while still remaining a sense of earnestness. There is one scene where he rises up out of the set in order to provide a monologue that is causing a bit of a split in the reviews. People either seem to love it or hate it. You can count me in on the love it side.
JCVD is not a typical Van Damme movie but is much more. It is a Jean Claude movie that will sorely disappoint viewers who are simply looking for a good not direct to DVD Van Damme movie. It will however provide great experience and will even give you something to think about for a while after. Oh and here is one final comment; the ending of JCVD provided the audience with what both the Van Damme fans and also the Jean Claude fans with what they wanted. It was truly a perfect moment when the whole audience erupted with a cheer during the last few moments of the bank robbery.
JCVD is really going to be one of the treasures of TIFF and even if you are not a fan of his action movies it is one you need to check out.