MABROUK EL MECHRI’S JCVD — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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JCVD is an extremely stylish, witty, and clever send-up of action movies and of the kickboxing superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme, with a unique meta-narrative that folds over on itself in more than a few ways. Energetically directed by Mabrouk El Mechri from a script he co-wrote with Frédéric Benudis, JCVD stars Van Damme playing a slightly exaggerated version of himself: burnt out, broke, desperate, and clinging to his last remaining grips at sanity. The plot gets complicated when Van Damme is framed for the robbery of a postal office, with a Dog Day Afternoon-type scenario taking place outside. The film is a comment on the direct-to-video action movie genre, Van Damme’s celebrity status, and what it’s like be past your prime in a young man’s game. Two major highlights are the opening sequence (all one, bewildering hand-held camera shot) and a scene at the film’s mid-point where Van Damme speaks directly to the camera, delivering an apology of sorts for all of his lurid and destructive behavior, both personally and professionally. It’s oddly moving, it’s funny, it’s sad, and it’s all very well done. This will be a major surprise for most people who give it a viewing.

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