Netflix Review: JCVD

In an effort to write more I thought I would start writing reviews about all movies that I watch.  And seeing as how the bulk of those will come from Netflix, I might as well name the series that.  My very first Netflix review will be JCVD.

I first have to say that I love Netflix!  I love that when I get a recommendation for a movie I might like I can just go to Netflix and add it to my que.  Then I can forget about it like I normally do, but it still shows up in my mailbox.  Brilliant!  That was how JCVD came to be in my PS3.

I next have to say that Jean-Claude Van Damme has a very special place in my heart.  Growing up my father was very addicted to movies, and so I got to go to a lot of movies with him.  And I don’t know if there was anything that excited us more than the action stars of the time: Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenneger, Sylvester Stallone and Jean-Claude Van Damme.  But JCVD was special because we were both martial arts geeks as well. (We took Tae-Kwon-Do together and both attained black belt status.)

So when Hard Target, Blood Sport, Kickboxer or Universal Soldier came out we were foaming at the mouth to see it. I still remember the awesomeness of watching Van Damme kick Dolph Lundgren’s ass on a giant screen.

So when I heard that Van Damme made a film where he plays himself as he is now, I was happy to add it to the que.

The film is disjointed chronologically.  You see parts of his life and how they all fit together comes together by the end.  What amazed me about this film was how it hit every stage of my Van Damme following.  It talks about how he was a huge superstar and how he now makes straight to DVD, throw-away movies.  (Seriously, did anyone watch Universal Soldier 3?)  I had a huge love for him, and now I don’t know if I would go to a big Hollywood release of a Van Damme movie.  What is great about this is you get to see how he has dealt with all of that.

I know this movie is a fiction, but the beauty of it is that I constantly found myself thinking “Man, I feel sorry for Van Damme.”  In the movie he is struggling personally to cope with losing his fame and the effect his movies have had on his personal life.  He is in a custody battle for his daughter where they point out that he is in a ton of movies where he kills people without remorse as a way to show that he is not suitable as a father.

I cannot do this review without discussing a scene near the end of the film where Van Damme breaks the forth wall and starts to talk directly to you, the viewer.  All of a sudden, he literally floats out of the scene he is in and starts talking about his life.  He talks about the fame, the girls, his wives and the effect that being a movie star has had on him.  And it is heart breaking.  Anyone who says that Van Damme can’t act, and he just made it off of his martial arts skills and his looks needs to watch just this one scene to be proven wrong.  It made me feel bad for a man who has been rich, traveled the world and enjoyed more than his fair share of women.

I am not going to discuss more of the plot because I do believe seeing this movie without knowing Van Damme’s role in the bank robbery really makes each new scene an answer to the puzzle which just creates more questions.

I highly recommend this movie.  If you ever had love for Van Damme, this is a must see.  If you like thoughtful, engaging movies this is for you as well.  The only caveat is that it is a foreign film and does have subtitles, but if you let that hold you back you are missing out on some truly great cinema.

Have you seen JCVD?  What did you think of it?  Let me know in the comments.

~Ryan Lynch