JVCD is one of the best films Jean-Claude Van Damme has stared in for some years, equal to his more recent efforts in Wake of Death and Replicant. Van Damme really puts on his acting cap in this and the formerly mentioned films. Out of the three, Replicant is still the best, followed by JCVD then Wake of Death. JVCD is the most inventive of the three and is the first film where Van Damme gets real with the viewer. JCVD is a film about Jean-Claude Van Damme’s life, his custody battle, his past bout with drug addiction and the current state of his film career. The viewer is shown fragments of his most embarrassing moments with honesty and no manipulation to show them in a better light. The viewer will be embarrassed when seeing some of these moments whether they were privy to them before this film or not. No punches are pulled and since Van Damme had a hand in the creative process, it turns out he is a braver actor and person that most of his films have lead the viewer and the public at large to believe. Nothing is left off the table, including idiotic (and regrettable) utterances he made in the past on television. Never before has a person been given such insight into the person behind the action persona of Van Damme.
The framework of JCVD consists of Van Damme’s need for a quick influx of cash, visiting a bank and that bank subsequently being held up for robbery. Most of JVCD happens within this robbery with events outside leading toward, a result of or dealing with it after it has been brought to the attention of the local authorities in Brussels, Belgium. Van Damme is a hero to the Brussels’ town people. They admire and look up to him even though the majority of his films these days are straight-to-video releases. He is theirs, one of them, a countryman that made it all the way to Hollywood.
During JVCD, the viewer is given fragments of what occurs in the bank in a nonlinear format, often being given the answer before the question. Who is robbing the bank is the subject of much humor in JVCD, as arguments break out laced with levity about the present predicament and how to get out of it. One setting in particular will make adult film aficionados smile. Both in and outside of the bank, Van Damme is often faced with being an action star in the real world, a real world where the hero is not invincible, always quicker than his opponent or smarter than the situation. In a few scenes, Van Damme sees what he would do if the robbery were an action film he was staring in then the viewer sees what he chooses to do.
Though this is one of the best parts of JCVD, probably the most memorable one is a six minute long scene where Van Damme breaks “the fourth wall”, looks at and talks directly to the viewer much as George Lazenby did briefly in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Van Damme lets a lot of his internal pain come out into the open. It is a very brave scene to see. Viewers that pay close attention during this monologue will notice something later referenced from it in plain sight during the remainder of the film.
Mabrouk El Mechri’s JCVD is fearless in what it depicts about Jean-Claude Van Damme and his life in front of and behind the camera. The viewer will most likely and involuntarily grew to respect Van Damme or at least understand him a few degrees better after watching this film.