Jean-Claude Van Damme is an international action superstar.  With a long line of classics (Bloodsport, Universal Soldier, Timecop, Death Warrant), he has solidified himself as martial arts master and the quintessential action hero.  Yet for all his tireless efforts towards the action genre,  he can't escape from being the butt of b-movie jokes.  Until now.

The Plot in 13 Words

A struggling real life Jean-Claude robs a bank, wants a second chance

Recreating the "Muscles"

In JCVD, french director Mabrouk el Mechri takes the image of 'Jean-Claude' and lets the man speak for himself.  The story is pretty conventional, but entertaining nontheless.  When he flies back to his native Brussels, he gets mixed up in a bank robbery and hostage situation that transforms into a global media frenzy.

This film is not a hoakey effort aimed at taking advantage of the 'Jean-Claude' name., Rather its a surprisingly intimate view into the famed "Muscles from Brussels."  At the age of 48, he still has the same killer action moves. We see them from the opening scene, an impressive uninterrupted sequence that follows him through on set explosions and roundhouses that do not connect.  The climax of the movie come at break point where Van Damme offers an amazing soliloquy that reveals his troubles with the Hollywood machine, his alienation, his drug fueled self-destruction, and his struggle to keep his family together.  It stirred me up, and left me dissappointed that I had viewed him for so long as a shallow and insignificant tool of Hollywood. The man can act.

A Punch To The Face

This is very much a French film, blending the avant-garde with Hollywood Cliches. There are chapter titles with abstract poetry, the story is told in a non-linear, roundabout way, the color palate is a washed out, overblown Sepia. But it's because of these stylistic elements that it's so successful at letting Van Damme be himself.  The world they create is one where an you walk out of the theatre with a new definition of an old icon. An icon who can still roundhouse someone in the face if he needs to. I say see it: 8/10