Wednesday, November 19, 2008

JCVD - Who Knew?

Caught a screening of the new Jean-Claude Van Damme art/action film, JCVD, and was duly impressed. It's a tad long and sluggish in spots, but any slight problems are over-shadowed by an impressive performance by, believe it or not, Van Damme. At 47 (and looking every day of that plus a few), Van Damme is still in amazing shape. The movie opens with a crazy "one shot" action sequence that stays in character but also manages to parody the over-the-top run-and-gun scenes that are the staple of the better direct-to-video epics.

But the real news is that Van Damme's developed an intriguing, world-weary mien that gives him the gravitas that always seemed just out of his reach. Actually, the revelation is that when he applies himself, he's quite natural, compelling and yes, genuinely "good" on screen.

Plot-wise, Van Damme plays himself, a down on his luck DTV-action star who finds himself trapped in a hostage/robbery situation in a Belgium post office/bank. While there is humor in the situation, especially since the police believe Van Damme is the robber, the whole thing is played for "real." That said, the centerpiece of the movie is an inspired moment when the action stops and Van Damme addresses the camera for a five-minute, unbroken self-excoriation that (frankly) doesn't make much sense but works through sheer acting bravado.

Don't know where this will lead for Mr. Van Damme in the future, but I am certainly more intrigued by the possibilities than I was in the wake of his last dozen DVD adventures...