Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Movie #52 - JCVD

#52 - JCVD (2008)

JCVD, an awful title whose initials stand for its lead actor, Jean Claude Van Damme---playing himself, is a strange and sometimes compelling attempt to playfully humanize the loony public persona of the Muscles from Brussels.
While there are some action scenes, and while the plot does surround a bank robbery gone awry, JCVD is really more of an art house meditation on the misunderstood B-movie action star, complete with more than a few passing nods to Jean Luc Godard and Charlie Kaufman. If that sounds a bit pretentious, that's because it is...but in a completely sweet sort of way. The film's premise of Van Damme wandering into a real life bank robbery is played for fewer laughs than one might expect and leads to one extraordinary scene which I've embedded below. In it, JCVD literally floats from the floor of the bank where he's being held captive, breaks the fourth wall and embarks on an emotional, six-minute monologue which was done in one take and which was largely improvised.

Another compelling scene is the extended tracking shot which opens the film. It's a ridiculously long action sequence with all of the usual Van Damme moves, but as the scene gets deeper and deeper, the absurdity of Van Damme's life and his career is drawn into sharp focus. If you've seen Tropic Thunder's opening, this is that...except done down to JCVD's scale...which is B-level mediocrity.
The fact that this film exists at all is just sort of strange.
I'm glad it does.
JCVD 6/10


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