JCVD - Mabrouk El Mechri

Ah, good old Van Dammage. Remember when the Muscles from Brussels was actually something of an icon, back in the days of Bloodsport and Kickboxer? Since then, he’s become something of a self-parody, starring in a number of direct-to-video releases with names like In Hell, The Hard Corps, and Wake of Death. That, combined with drug problems, numerous marital issues, and some embarrassing television appearances, seemed destined to relegate Van Damme to the pop culture periphery.

But rather than try and shy away from the limelight, and all of the issues and troubles with his life, Van Damme has used them to make art. Art in this case being JCVD, a semi-autobiographical film about Van Damme’s life as a celebrity, and all of its bumps and bruises.

Think of it as Charlie Kaufman with a black belt: Van Damme plays himself, a washed up action star who is too old for the roles that keep getting offered him. His agent is leeching off his money — which he doesn’t have very much of any more — and his daughter hates his guts. His celebrity, parenting abilities, and financial status are all called into question. And what’s more, he’s the lead suspect in a bank robbery. What does an action star do, when he can’t kick and punch his way out of a threatening situation?

Todd Brown over at Twitch called JCVD a truly great film and even went so far as to call it the best film he’d seen to date. And Variety’s Rob Nelson loved it as well. And every time I see the trailer, I get that thrill you get when you know you’re seeing something really special.

Check out JCVD​‘s official TIFF entry here.