JCVD (2008)

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*. It’s not quite true that there are no second acts in American life. We all like comeback stories, and who likes to come back more than aging athletes and movie stars?
*. Still, if you were trying to come up with some names of action stars from the ’80 and ’90s you thought you wouldn’t be seeing much of in the twenty-first century, I suspect Jean-Claude Van Damme would be near the top of the list.
*. JCVD belongs in that select group of action stars, most of them former athletes, and most of them former martial artists, who are not very good actors. Granted, he is better than the non-actors. The non-actors are not bad actors, they are people who really don’t know anything about acting at all. Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal are a couple of examples. I find them downright painful to watch.
*. Put in a limited enough role, Van Damme is usually capable of doing a passable job (he has Bloodsport and Timecop to his credit). But you do have to keep your expectations low. Plus he has never worked with great material, and has had other personal problems to deal with (some of them confessed to here in his monologue).

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*. I think he’s borderline very good here, albeit the role (essentially playing himself) isn’t a big stretch.
*. Where the movie falls down, it seems to me, is with the script. It’s a meta-action film, which is a genre that has become mainstream because the predicate genres are so worn out, but the script isn’t fast or clever or original enough to carry the concept along. The only line here I really loved was the agent’s response to being asked directly if he’s read the script of the next project he’s pitching to his star: “I don’t know.” That’s wonderful low-key surrealism.
*. I can just barely understand why our hero is accused of extortion at the end (because he was asking for more money than he was being forced to ask for), but I still don’t think he’d be formally charged, given all of the circumstances. How on earth such a charge could have resulted in a conviction and prison sentence is beyond me.

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