JCVD (2008)

Being Jean Claude, anyone? As ideas for cinematic comebacks go, this is one of the better ones: Jean Claude Van Damme—who was by this point a kind of washed-up former action movie star who hadn’t had a theatrical release in nearly a decade—plays Jean Claude Van Damme, an aging, washed-up former action movie star whose career is stuck in straight-to-video hell, and whose personal life is in similarly dire straits, with an ongoing custody battle and messy divorce. Returning to his Belgian hometown, he gets caught up in a heist at the local post office, and—even worse—is thought to be the perpetrator of same. I had a feeling I’d be in for fun even before the film started (the standard Gaumont logo being given an amusing twist), followed by the gloriously absurd “single-shot” action scene under the credits, and the film lived up to that expectation. The story is, admittedly, a slightly thin one, and it probably does run out of puff a bit by the end, but it’s given life by its structure—revisiting earlier events in flashback from different perspectives—to reveal the story in more interesting ways, and by the fun it has satirising Van Damme’s own image as a still-popular hero to the people of his native Belgium and also satirising the genre at large (I was particularly fond of the bits where Van Damme advises the actual bank robbers how to conduct the siege more like a film)… director Mabrouk el Mechri is avowedly influenced by that Godard fellow, and you can kind of see that here, though I had more fun with this than most of the actual Godard films I’ve seen. Not the most consequential film, or the most intellectually advanced thing ever reviewed here, but certainly a pleasing way to pass a Saturday afternoon…

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