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JCVD is a crime-based comedy drama directed by French-Algerian director Mabrouk El Mechri, and starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as himself, a down-and-out action star whose family and career are crumbling around him as he is caught in the middle of a post office heist in his hometown of Brusselsmarker, Belgiummarker.

The film was screened on June 4, 2008 in Belgium and Francemarker, at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival (Midnight Madness), and at the Adelaide Film Festivalmarker on February 20, 2009. It was distributed by Peace Arch Entertainment from Toronto and opened in New York and select cities on November 7, 2008.

Plot

The film establishes Jean-Claude Van Damme playing himself as an out-of-luck actor. He is out of money; his agent cannot find him a decent production; and the judge in a custody battle is inclined to give custody of his daughter over to his ex-wife. He returns to his childhood home of Brussels, the capital of Belgium, where he is still considered a national icon.

When he goes into a post office to receive a wire transfer, he finds himself in the middle of a hostage situation. Due to an unfortunate mistake, the police believe Van Damme is responsible for the crime. As the events are played from different perspectives, Van Damme finds himself acting as a hero to protect the hostages, as well as a negotiator as the presumed perpetrator. In the climax of the film, one of the bank robbers shoots one of the others.

The police, after hearing a gunshot, storm the building. The police shoot another one of the thieves, and Van Damme is held at gunpoint by the final one. Van Damme briefly imagines a scenario in which he takes the robber out using karate, but in reality, he just elbows him and the police get him. Van Damme is arrested for extortion due to his making the demand of $465,000 to the law firm which is handling his custody case while speaking as the ringleader of the group and sentenced to 1 year in prison. The final scene shows him teaching karate to other inmates, then being visited by his mother and daughter.

Cast

  • Jean-Claude Van Damme as Jean-Claude Van Damme
  • François Damiens as Bruges
  • Zinedine Soualem as The Man with the Cap
  • Karim Belkhadra as The Vigil
  • Jean-François Wolff as The Thirty
  • Anne Paulicevich as The Teller
  • Saskia Flanders as J.C.V.D.'s daughter
  • Dean Gregory as the Director of Tobey Wood
  • Kim Hermans as the Prisoner in kickboxing outfit
  • Steve Preston as the Assistant to J.C.V.D.
  • Paul Rockenbrod as Tobey Wood
  • Alan Rossett as Bernstein
  • Jesse Joe Walsh as Jeff


Production

The concept for the film originated from a producer that had an agreement with Jean-Claude to play himself in a movie. The producer, knowing El Mechri was a Van Damme fan, asked him to review the original screenplay. The screenwriters had perceived Van Damme as merely a clown, but El Mechri felt that there was more to Van Damme than just what people knew from his big screen action-hero persona.

The filmmaker offered to write a draft, and the producer asked if he would direct it as well. El Mechri agreed on the condition he could meet Van Damme first before starting the draft, so he would not waste six months on something that Van Damme might veto. El Mechri and Van Damme had dinner, where the idea of the bank heist and not knowing what has happened inside was pitched. Van Damme was thrilled with the concept. After watching El Mechri's film, Virgil, he immediately went to work with the French director.

El Mechri stated that about 70% of the film was scripted, and the other 30% was improvised from the actors. Most of the ad-libs came from Van Damme.

During Van Damme's six-minute, one-take monologue, he references past drug problems. In truth, Van Damme had troubles with cocaine during 1995, entering a month-long rehab program in 1996 but leaving it only after a week.

In the film, Van Damme has a daughter, who chooses her mother's custody. Actually, this scenario was played out with Van Damme's real-life son, but they had to change his child in the movie to a daughter for legal reasons.

The Gaumont title sequence has been altered for this film. The normal sequence has a silhouetted boy pulling a daisy from the ground, which floats to space to become the company logo. In this film, the boy is confronted by a silhouetted Van Damme, who attempts to take the daisy from him. When the boy resists, Van Damme does a roundhouse kick on him and kicks the daisy upwards, where it becomes the company logo.

Influences

The filmmaker was influenced by Jean-Luc Godard and collaborations between Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman.

El Mechri's main visual influence was Robert Richardson, who was the cinematographer on a number of Oliver Stone and Martin Scorsese films. Directorial influences include the likes of Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still), Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon), Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood), and Park Chan-wook (Oldboy). El Mechri says that his favorite Van Damme film is Bloodsport.

Reception

Reviews for JCVD have been positive. , Rotten Tomatoes has the film rated at 85% on the Tomatometer, based on 95 reviews. To date, this is the only Van Damme film to be listed as Certified Fresh by the aggregate website.

Peter Bradshaw reviewed the film for The Guardian and called the monologue "a Godardian coup de cinéma", describing the film as "inter-textual and self-referential".

Time magazine named Jean-Claude Van Damme's performance in the film the second best of the year (after Heath Ledger's The Joker in The Dark Knight), having previously stated that Van Damme "deserves not a black belt, but an Oscar".

References

  1. The title is the initials of the main character, Jean-Claude Van Damme.


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