Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Van Dammage: JCVD & Behind Closed Doors

"It's hard for me to judge people and it's hard for them not to judge me. Easier to blame me."
     Jean-Claude Van Damme in JCVD

In addition to showing my friend around town, he had the hankering for watching JCVD after seeing a flyer hanging on the wall of my den. You don't have to ask me twice so in went the DVD. The 2008 pseudo-documentary tells the tale of JCVD (Jean-Claude Van Damme), an alternate version of the high kicking international movie star who is struggling to make movies, losing a child custody battle and nearly broke. Heading home to Belgium to relax, he's caught up in a Post Office/Bank robbery and is thought to be one of the perpetrators. It's like Al Pacino's Dog Day Afternoon but with less drama and a few more kicks. The Mabrouk El Merchri directed and co-written with Frederic Benudis, Frederic Taddei, Vincent Ravalec and Christophe Turpin film feature several highlight scenes like a one take opening action sequence, Van Damme tiredly kicking a cigarette out of a hostages mouth, a six minute personal monologue to the camera and a dream sequence that includes a roundhouse kick to the face, low fives and flexing. With moody lighting and a rich, dark palette, JCVD is visually striking as it is emotionally. Van Damme speaks mostly French here and showcases his natural charm and sadness throughout. Even though he's covered up for the most of the film, you can tell he hit the gym quite a bit as it's the last time he would be so thick. The film kicked up several excellent reviews from Variety, Time Magazine and fellow actors Robert Pattinson and Nicolas Cage. Scheduled to promote the independent film in America, Van Damme pulled out last minute to take care of a dying dog. Meanwhile, Mickey Rourke gave a less impacting performance in the less memorable The Wrestler but hit the talk and award show circuit crying about his life and got a Best Actor nomination. I truly believe if Van Damme had played the game, he would have been lauded in the same way but for a better and more honest performance. Such is life.

Of course opening the Van Damme bag lead to a few episodes of his 2011 reality show Behind Closed Doors where we follow the globe trotting action star to movie sets and events in Russia, Dubai, Canada, Hong Kong, Romania, Belgium and the United States. Looking a bit skinny here, Van Damme had his heart event during the shooting, the Muscles From Brussels shows us his bi-polar personality as one day he's happy and light on his feet while others he's crying about the state of the world and all skies are gray. But it's still a fun watch as his natural sense of humor and interesting outlook on life is on full display. You also see his love for dogs as he rescues one in Romania and we see his canine sanctuary in Belgium. The show was taped pre-Expendables II so you get on-set accounts of flicks like Weapon aka Assassination Games, Dragon Eyes, Napoleon 3D and a Gilette commercial. Van Damme regulars like Scott Adkins, Ernie Barbarash and Sheldon Lettich make appearances as well. Long suffering, twice married wife Gladys is featured throughout, anchoring the show as she recounts their courtship, divorce, his addiction problems and trying to raise their kids outside the craziness of Hollywood.

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