Belgian action star Jean-Claude Van Damme just wow-ed me out that screening in Santa Monica, CA. The Muscles From Brussels specializes in playing bulked-up butt kickers in whomp-and-release flicks happily derided the world over. But the clever, stylish perception-teaser of a comic drama JCVD: a reality-twist which showcases a Van Damme who’s sly like a fox about his own image. Here’s a smart guy who has taken plenty of punches in life, fully aware of how close celebrity is to absurdity.
Van Damme plays an action star called Jean-Claude Van Damme (we see him doing his moves on a movie set) with a lot on his mind when the camera is not rolling. Embroiled in a custody battle over his daughter, he sets out on a banking errand, accidentally interrupts a stickup in progress, and becomes another hostage. Movie-style maneuvers are useless, of course, against real bullets; what would a flesh-and-blood hero do? Sympathetic director Mabrouk El Mechri creates a marvelous netherworld of ambiguous scenarios, and Van Damme rises beyond expectations.