12 December 2008

At the movies: JCVD.

Eking out a living as a has-been action hero battling his way through custody hearings and a check-to-check life lived on credit and the goodwill of strangers, it's been a trying decade for Jean-Claude Van Damme. Laying low in smalltown Belgium, our hero finds himself in the midst of a Post office hold-up which, unfortunately, the police believe him to be responsible for.

Breaking back out of straight-to-DVD limbo and back onto the big screen, JCVD has been helping its titular star in mounting up accolades from the world of art cinema as well as reestablishing some credentials in the world of global action cinema. Unfolding in desaturated sepiatone, we get a strange hybrid of several different
genres, and the end result is a film that earns its emotional payoffs just as easily as it lands its incapacitating kung fu blows.

You will respect Jean-Claude Van Damme by the time this film reaches its end. Calling JCVD an existential action film isn't quite fair, but there's a point, about sixty-eight minutes in, where he lays everything out; equally biography and philosophy, and heart-wrenching in its sincerity and surrounding artifice. It's the
scene of the year, to be sure, and a sign that Mickey Rourke isn't the only star of Double Team having an amazing comeback this year.

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