Directed by Mabrouk El Mechri
A forgotten action hero makes a comeback playing himself.
It turns out that Jean-Claude Van Damme is “not just a set of glistening pectorals,” said Bernard Besserglik in The Hollywood Reporter. The martial arts action hero, who rose to and fell from fame during the 1990s, unveils a startlingly human side in the seriocomic biopic JCVD. Van Damme, playing himself, returns to Brussels as a personal and professional failure. At the post office one day, he finds himself at the center of a hostage crisis and is forced to become the hero he only pretended to be in movies. As Van Damme willingly makes “his public persona the butt of the joke,” he comes off as achingly vulnerable. In one arresting sequence, Van Damme launches into a six-and-a-half-minute confession and eventually bursts into tears, said J. Hoberman in The Village Voice. Director Mabrouk El Mechri often combines self-parody with self-pity, leaving the audience to wonder whether to laugh or give the poor guy a hug. JCVD is a realistic portrait of a washed-up star and therefore “part parody, part exposé, part justification,” said Richard Corliss in Time. It’s honest, true, and by far the “best movie Van Damme ever made.”