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JCVD (DVD Review)

20 Apr, 2009 By: John Latchem


Street 4/28/09
Peace Arch
Box Office $0.47 million
$19.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for language and some violence.
Stars Jean-Claude Van Damme.

If Hollywood ever took Jean-Claude Van Damme seriously, few would admit to noticing.

Guilty-pleasure actioners such as Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Timecop, Universal Soldier and Street Fighter do not exactly engender an aura of respectability. Even his nickname, the Muscles From Brussels, seems to put him in his place.

Then again, we have a tendency to take our action heroes for granted.

Van Damme is just an actor like any other, exploited by Hollywood for his physical gifts. But at least he seems in on the joke, as evidenced by JCVD, a smart examination of the way movies can warp our perception of reality. Van Damme for once gets to act like a real person and not a tough-guy caricature, though he is essentially playing a hyper-real version of himself.

Broke and jobless, Van Damme heads back to Belgium and finds himself in the middle of a heist. Worse yet, due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, the cops think he’s the thief.

Director Mabrouk El Mechri accentuates Van Damme’s conflict by immersing the film in a gritty reality that in some ways is evocative of Dog Day Afternoon, the classic Al Pacino holdup-gone-wrong film. A jazzy musical score gives an extra touch of noir.

Van Damme the movie persona would have no problem extracting himself from the situation. But life is not like the movies, a point Van Damme himself makes as he addresses the fourth wall with a self-reflective soliloquy.

The disc includes three audio tracks: English, French and the original theatrical audio, which includes a mix of English and French, with subtitles. Unlike many foreign-language films, the English dub is not much of a distraction, and the film is just as effective as the subtitled native-language version.

Also included is a digital copy containing the theatrical version, and accessing it isn’t a complicated affair. Users need simply to copy a file from the DVD to their computer. The digital copy is available as a Quicktime file for iTunes, or a Windows Media File.

The DVD is otherwise light on extras, containing only five minutes of superfluous deleted material and the theatrical trailer. A commentary from JCVD himself would have been a great addition.

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