“The main goal of the future is to stop violence. The world is addicted to it.” - Bill Cosby
We watched a very interesting film at the weekend, which proved that all is not what it seems. I had bought this out of the “specials” basket in our local video store, believing it to be a typical action, “dick-flick”, judging it from its cover and its star, Jean-Claude Van Damme. However, it was quite a surprise, turning out to be a satire, with elements of action, drama, comedy and action.
It was "JCVD" starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Valérie Bodson, Hervé Sogne. It was a Belgian/Luxembourgeois/French co-production with the soundtrack mainly in French, although there was some English dialogue. I am once again airing my displeasure with the producers of DVDs and BluRay discs who do not subtitle their films. While the French dialogue was subtitled on this disc, the English dialogue was not and half of it was unintelligible, greatly detracting from the enjoyment of the movie.
Van Damme plays himself in this movie, giving a great performance as an ageing action film star who has difficulty in getting good roles, problems with the tax department, and is in the middle of a custody case with his wife over their daughter. He tries to escape these problems in the USA by going back to his home in Brussels, Belgium. Unfortunately for him, when he goes into a Post office/Bank he stumbles into a hold-up where a number of hostages are being held by a bunch of desperate thugs. Unfortunately for Van Damme, the way in which things are perceived by people outside the post office, causes police and media alike to believe that Van Damme is the mastermind of the robbery, in order to pay his half-a-million-dollar legal bills.
The film opens with a signature Van Damme action sequence, with what everyone expects his movies to be like. Lots of violence, kicks, shootings, blood, gore and explosions. Typical generic guff that one sees not only with Van Damme but also with Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, etc. It turns out that is just a short scene from a film that is being shot in Hollywood, with Van Damme as the star. It serves to highlight the plight of the actor who is typecast and who cannot break free from the shackles of Hollywood contracts. We are then transported to Brussels where Van Damme retreats in order to try and put his life in order. The film is episodic, with flashbacks, flash-forwards, repetition of scenes from different observer’s perspective and even contains quite an astonishing monologue where Van Damme bares his soul…
I was pleasantly surprised to see Van Damme act! I mean really act, rather than take part in a carefully orchestrated set of action sequences separated by a few scenes of minimal dialogue as in his usual films. The story was involving and the direction snappy and inventive. The film overall reminded us a little of the 1994 Quentin Tarantino, now classic, “Pulp Fiction”.
If you are interested in an action movie with a little more depth, if you are a fan of Van Damme, if you wish to see something that is unusual and rather offbeat, then watch this film. It still has quit a lot of violence in it, but it is after all a product of our times and shows the way that we parasitise violence to achieve our various ends.