The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

JCVD (2008)

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I've been wanting to check this film out for a while now. It's taken forever for it to make it over here to the States. I probably could've downloaded it illegally, because I think there're bit torrents out there of all of Van Damme's stuff, but I figured I'd wait. It wasn't like I didn't have a bunch of other films to watch for the DTVC.

JCVD has Van Damme roughly playing himself, in that it's pretty much him. He's having money problems between his taxes and the custody fight for his daughter, so back in Brussels, he goes to the bank/post office to transfer money. That's when all hell breaks loose, as he finds himself in a botched robbery hostage situation, and the cops think he's the one committing the crime. Life is imitating art-- only it's still an artist's depiction of life-- as Van Damme is stuck in a situation that reads out of one of the films he'd do.

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I liked this movie. It wasn't amazing, but it was good. My biggest issue was that I had trouble with the way the story was told, with them jumping to the middle, then sliding back to near the beginning and working itself back to the middle, before moving to the end. Sometimes it's cool to tell a story in a nonlinear fashion from multiple viewpoints, but here it felt like going to dinner with a bunch of friends, getting there early, and having someone tell you a story, only to have to listen to him or her tell the rest of your friends again after they arrive.

Beyond that it was really good. Not an action film as much as a postmodernist look at the DTV action genre in general, particularly through the eyes, not of us Americans, but of the Belgians that Van Damme represented when he made it big. I think it's always interesting to see the far reaching effects Hollywood has in the world. It's not just Americans who dream of making it in Tinsel Town, and our movie stars are not ours alone, but the world's, and for a country like Belgium to have one of their own on the marquee, it's just like Mainers being excited that Patrick Dempsey's in a new romantic comedy.

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This was a great performance from Van Damme. For the most part he was just playing himself, but he still had to do it in a way that made him a sympathetic figure, and he definitely achieved that. The major difference I see between Dolph and Van Damme, is that Dolph just kind of fell into a movie career on his way to MIT, while Van Damme dreamed of this from a very young age, and this film really underscores that point. For Dolph, movies like The Defender and Diamond Dogs are just gravy. He's taking this ride for all he can get. But for Van Damme, those kinds of movies hurt his soul, because they're just a reminder of how far he fell. It'll be interesting to see how the two are together in Universal Soldiers: The Next Generation; but it also gives me a level of understanding for Van Damme and why he chooses the movies he chooses.

I always bring up actors' ages on the DTVC, because I'm often astounded by how old some of these guys are, and wonder when they might slow down. The beginning of this movie actually covered this issue. Van Damme starts in this long one-shot scene while the opening credits roll, and after it, when it goes bad and the director yells cut, he tells he guy "I'm almost 50 years old, I can't do these long one-shot scenes anymore." It was cool, because, like everything else in this movie, it put a human face on Van Damme.

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During the end credits there's a cover of David Bowie's "Modern Love" by this woman named Marie Mazziotti. It was pretty sweet. Sweet enough for me to mention it here. It's weird, because a few years ago, I started saying "it'll get you to the church on time" to describe something as being good enough, or enough to get someone by. Like if a friend said "I couldn't afford the stretch hummer, so I just got the plain old limo", my response would be "I think that'll get us to the church on time." The funny thing was I hadn't heard that song for years, at least since I started using that phrase, and so to hear it at the end of JCVD was a treat. You could even say it got me to the church on time.

If you're a big time action fan, you need to rent this, whether you like Van Damme or not. It's a very cool take on genre. The version I got was on Netflix's Watch Instantly, and that one was dubbed, as opposed to subtitled. I don't know if you can get it subtitled on DVD, but I actually prefer my foreign films subtitled, so the dubbing was kind of a drawback. Either way, dubbed or subtitled, it's a must-see.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1130988/

4 comments:

  1. I too thought this was a must-see - though not the greatest thing ever like everyone made it out to be- after watching it, but was very disappointed in the dubbed version of the NF Instant Watch. While it was still enjoyable, it would definitely be worth it to still throw the dvd on your qeue to watch the original performances, it adds SOOOO much to the film. There are lots of nuances to the jokes and delivery we don't get with this Netflix instant watch travesty. Once again, a great review.

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  2. Okay, I'm glad you brought that up that the subtitled version is better. I wasn't sure. I have some friends that are Van Damme fans that haven't seen this yet, so I'll make sure when I watch it with them that we get the DVD. Thanks again!

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  3. Late to the comments - just watched this one last night. Really enjoyed it. I agree it was a little draggy in places.

    I think the jumping back and forth thing was pretty well done. Gave some great background to what it's like being a DTV actor - getting beaten to a part by Steven Seagal, arguing with your agent over a crappy script, still scraping together money like the rest of us.

    Van Damme really showed he could act - loved that monologue. I feel like he's got himself a second wind in his career. I know Universal Soldier Regeneration was a bit of bait and switch but he's really starting to do some proper acting now.

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  4. I just reread my review for the first time since I posted it over two years ago, so by all means, come to the conversation whenever you want-- it gives me a reason to revisit these, which I like.

    I agree, the ultimate selling points here were Van Damme's great performance, and that behind the scenes look at the world of action movies. A must for any action fan.

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