JCVD review

Van Damme makes a comeback, Rourke style

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For a while there, back in the’90s, Jean-Claude Van Damme looked set to muscle in on the big boys. Universal Soldier, Hard Target, Timecop… The Euro kickboxing champ was starting to flex in bigger, slicker pictures.

Then came the divorces, the drugs, the alarming slide into heavy-limbed actioners you’ve never heard of. Now 48, face puffed, eyes clouded, his time is up.

Think again. JCVD marks a Mickey Rourkealike comeback, Van Damme making a virtue of his ravaged face and stiffening joints to play… Himself, parking his worn muscles back in Brussels after losing an LA custody battle for his daughter.

Pursued by the taxman, he steps into a bank to wire funds and finds himself embroiled in a real bank robbery, a crowd gathering outside to chant his name, Dog Day Afternoon-style.

Directed with pace and a little too much surface gloss by Mabrouk El Mechri, JCVD works less as a suspense thriller and more as a treatise on celebrity, a confessional for its star.

It aims playful cuffs at his waning physicality, his dwindling career, and one remarkable seven-minute take even sees Van Damme address the camera to direct roundhouse kicks at his chequered past. Those tears? They’re real.

Jamie Graham

The Total Film team are made up of the finest minds in all of film journalism. They are: Editor Jane Crowther, Deputy Editor Matt Maytum, Reviews Ed Matthew Leyland, News Editor Jordan Farley, and Online Editor Emily Murray. Expect exclusive news, reviews, features, and more from the team behind the smarter movie magazine.