JCVD Mabrouk El Mechri

JCVD Mabrouk El Mechri
JCVD may not be the film that causes you to completely re-evaluate the career of '80s Belgian action hero Jean-Claude Van Damme, but you've got to admire his gumption. The Muscles From Brussels plays himself in this cleverly self-aware action flick. At 47, his body is broken, his spirit is bruised from a long-fought custody battle for his daughter (in which his filmography is used as an example of his poor judgment) and he just wants to get home for some R&R. But a bank machine stop turns ugly when Van Damme gets inadvertently involved in a heist and mistaken for a culprit. And while his is not a revelatory performance in terms of acting - this is not Rourke in The Wrestler by any stretch - it is the most entertaining action film he's been involved with in at least a decade, possibly ever. Utilizing a fractured narrative structure that would love to be called Rashoman-esque (it's not), the film bounces around the timeline to reveal different aspects of JCVD's horrible day; it's effective but not groundbreaking. Which is how you could sum up the whole film actually: as an action/thriller it's perfectly good. But as an action thriller with Jean-Claude Van Damme declaring himself "too old for this shit" and constantly having to face Belgian fans that just want to ask about John Woo (1993's Hard Target was Woo's first Western film), JCVD adds an extra jolt of fun. All credit is due to Van Damme, who shows some depth behind soulful, damaged eyes, and also that the body that made his name remains in fine shape. The DVD is a bit of a lost opportunity in terms of behind-the-scenes perspective: how it got made, how Van Damme feels about his legacy - so many questions. There are no extras so we don't get those answers. (Peace Arch)