Mabrouk el Mechri :: Belgium, France :: 2008 :: 1h36

Back in Brussels from Los Angeles, an jet-lagged Jean-Claude van Damme hopes to find some peace and quiet from the cut-throat world of the entertainment business. Exhausted from his journey, from his humiliating child custody case for his daughter, and from the unending pressure to keep his career on the float. His home town of Brussels is proud of him, for being a fighter, for chasing his dreams. Unfortunately, within an hour of being back home, bad luck slips him into the heart of an unfolding  robbery. A robbery which becomes a robbery with Jean-Claude van Damme.

JCVD is a sad movie to watch. The mix of fiction with reality (the actor playing himself) brings the whole scenery close to home. It is filmed in a Belgian film noir kind of way (filming from down below with light falling on half the face for dramatic effect), with dry humour in the dialogues. The ambition of being a thriller combined with the musings of Jean-Claude van Damme, makes for an unnatural combination which takes the speed out of the thriller and puts more social drama into the musings. Three quarters through the film, Jean-Claude is actually lifted out of the scene to be left in a messy social and personal musings session.

The auto-derision of the actor and his incapacity to remove himself from the mess in which he finds himself (his life, the world) puts a weight on the shoulders of the viewer. The viewer expects the action hero to make it all right again, and he knows that this is what people expect from him. At the same time, he is afraid and there is not very much he can do to help himself, or the others. The movie does not resolve problems in Jean-Claude’s life, it merely sketches them as a portrait. At the same time, the robbery must finish, putting a beginning and an end to the time we pass with him. The portrait jostles for attention next to the unfolding robbery, leaving a somewhat unclear montage. But then again, for those who grew up on Jean-Claude van Damme movies like the director, this is a rare insight into the karate hero, and his first serious film. Watch it at the last showing at night, when your logical expectations are down, and you will come out feeling more ‘aware’.



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