review by Neo

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Year: 2008

Box Office: US$2.34 million

Director: Mabrouk El Mechri

Producer: Sidonie Dumas, Fiszman Marc, Patrick Quinet, Jani Thiltges, Arlette Zylberberg

Screenplay: Frédéric Bénudis, Mabrouk El Mechri, Christophe Turpin

Starring: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup, Stephen Dorff, Lili Taylor, Channing Tatum, Emilie de Ravin

Genre: Crime/JCVD/Action

Tagline: Most likely Van Damme’s best outing for years…

Review by Neo: Sometimes, it really makes you wonder why former superstars like Segal and Van Damme are making such cheap and crappy direct to video flicks. The thought of Van Damme starring in a cheap, low budget and meaningless action flick have already become a point of cliché. However, one must admit that the recent output from the Muscles from Brussels have been better, with films like In Hell, Wake of Death and now the critically acclaimed film, JCVD. It is about fitting time that Van Damme is given such a good character role to play. Sure, the man lacks the range of almost any actors you can mention, but you can never deny his passion and trying efforts. In Wake of Death, Van Damme actually tried to act and whether you like it or not, it was a good effort, but here, Damme is at his very best, as he is simply playing himself. JCVD brings Damme back to his root that is Brussels, the city that launched his career, his life and his family. It is always great to witness someone who have fallen and yet still able to pick himself up again and for that, JCVD is already worthy of complementation.

To be honest, I have never been a fan of JCVD, but there is no denying that from time to time, I do get interested in his past resume. Most notably, his venture with John Woo in Hard Target, a couple with Tsui Hark and then In Hell with Ringo Lam. Somehow, his brushes with quality Hong Kong directors have resulted in shameful films for the director’s career. Still, there is a lot to admire of JCVD and most certainly heaps more talented than the fat belly Steven Seagal.

JCVD is a film that is part real, part fiction and part movie. JCVD is now at the loggerhead with his life, in the blitz of a legal battle for his daughter custody, he is caught short-changed, framed for armed robbery of a local Post Office and at the core of all the problems, he even got a movie role taken by his famous counterpart – Steven Seagal.

Van Damme is back and his efforts here should not be undermined. The fact that he is playing himself; it made the film and his role all the more convincing. The scene where the camera gives him a full frontal shot with Damme speaking of the tale of his life, the conflict he is at and the loggerhead he has put himself in. The 5 minutes dialogue was touching to say the least and the parallel to his real life does not seem too far off. If Damme can pull off a scene like that, I am sure, there is more to come from the Man who was once known as “muscles from Brussels”.

All in all, JCVD is a great semi-documentary that plays with the audience along the way. It is probably true that Van Damme wants a good script, credible director, quality production team and a proper studio, so that his film can once again hit the big screen rather than Blockbuster video stores. It is great to witness the fact that Damme still have fire in his belly and let’s just hope this is not just a false beginning. At 48 years, Damme is still young even to make a comeback and not unlike Stallone, who have eased and welcomed his aging years by engaging his audience with former pride and glory. It remains to be seen whether, JCVD is really the turning point for the man … (Neo 2009)

I rate it 7.5/10

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