JCVD

 Posted by at 8:44 pm  Comments Off on JCVD
Apr 262010
 

“JCVD” is not the typical high action, low budget, straight-to-DVD, movie we’ve all come to expect from Jean-Claude Van Damme. In fact, with the exception of one of the greatest credit sequences in movie history, JCVD doesn’t deliver much in the karate department. But what the movie lacks in martial arts, it more than makes up for in cinematic arts. This isn’t an action flick, it’s a moving and intimate portrayal of an actor turned industry joke. During Van Damme’s 25 year career in Hollywood, he has been consistently typecast, labeled a one-trick pony and found himself at the center of drug and relationship scandals. Jean-Claude Van Damme could have easily rectified his problems with karate chops, but in JCVD he faces all of the criticisms without resorting to violence, and in the process displays more vulnerability and humanity than any other actor in Hollywood to date.

Here’s the plot: after losing a messy custody battle with his ex-wife, not to mention losing a movie role to Steven Seagal, Van Damme heads back to Belgium to get his life in order and to get back in touch with his roots. Upon arriving in Belgium, tired and out of money, Van Damme heads over to the local bank to retrieve a wire transfer, but the bank has been taken over by three gun wielding maniacs. When the police mistakenly pin the whole mess on Jean-Claude, he soon becomes intrinsically wrapped up in the robbery. Jean-Claude Van Damme finds himself in a familiar predicament, but this time it’s real life and his Hollywood training can’t save him.

I know that this all seems like the perfect formula for action but as it turns out, it’s actually the perfect formula for exposing the human flaws within Jean-Claude Van Damme. Between the scenes inside and outside the bank, there are vignettes which reflect JCVD’s deteriorating situation. These scenes expose his failed marriage, the rocky relationship with his daughter, and his ailing movie career. Once all of these elements come together, why JCVD doesn’t simply clobber the bad guys is understandable; he’s no action hero, he’s just a has been and he knows it. So he doesn’t save the day with extreme prejudice, instead he does like all of the other hostages and obeys commands in order to walk out alive.

If this all sounds a bit too touchy-feely, well, I guess it is. Sure, there’s plenty of action and excitement too, but when all of those aspects are forgotten, what you will remember about this movie comes in at about the 1 hour mark: at this point the camera locks in on JCVD and the movie stops. JCVD is lifted out of the scene and then he delivers one of the most stirring monologues I’ve ever heard. In this five minute monologue JCVD confronts the criticisms that have plagued his career, taking responsibility and showing true remorse and character. I don’t want to give too much away, but by the end of the scene JCVD cries, and then you cry. When this scene comes, don’t fight back the tears. Let them come naturally (they will come) so that you and JCVD can share this moment together.


As JCVD Appreciation Week draws to a close I can’t think of a better movie to end it with. Whether you love or hate JCVD, after seeing this movie I guarantee you are bound to walk away with a better appreciation of the man, and his movies.

I give JCVD: Custody of my heart

Bloodsport

 Posted by at 2:13 pm  Comments Off on Bloodsport
Apr 252010
 

When we began JCVD Appreciation Week, we decided to focus on the less popular titles under the assumption that everyone has seen the classics. You would think that somewhere along the line, most people would have stumbled into Bloodsport half way through on daytime TNT or walked into their creepy uncle’s house while he was watching Cyborg or, at the very least, fallen asleep with the TV on and woken up to Timecop. But talking with some folks the other day, I realized that an unsettlingly large percentage of people are not down with their JCVD roots. While this may be completely understandable, it’s still unacceptable. Let’s get you some culture.

5 Reasons To Watch Bloodsport Tonight

(Other Than The Fact That It’s The Best Movie Ever)

1.) Donald Gibb is decidedly unfuckwithable. That’s why no one calls “bullshit” when his character Ray Jackson is somehow easily able to go all the way to Hong Kong to fight in a secret and highly exclusive martial arts tournament despite having no martial arts training. His ability to decimate dudes’ heads by smashing his meaty fists down upon them is enough. Fucking badass. By the by, did you know that in real life this dude actually owns a  brewery in Chicago called “Trader Todd’s Adventure Beer”? My life’s goal is to get a hug from this man.

2.) Bloodsport is the only film in existence wherein you can see a young Forest Whitaker chase a giggling, showboating JCVD through the streets of Hong Kong. You may also notice that he doesn’t look much different in 1988 than he does now, which proves my theory that Forest Whitaker is a magical, timeless being, wholly unaffected by the laws of nature.

3.) You probably know that the Mortal Kombat character Johnny Cage is based on JCVD…but did you know his signature nut punch was inspired by this amazing scene?

4.) I can’t be positive, but I’m pretty sure in the flashback scenes showing JCVD as a gawky teenager, the actual voice of the child actor was replaced by JCVD himself doing a falsetto. If that is the case, it is positively the best thing ever. And if it isn’t? Fuck it. It is in my mind and that’s all that matters.

5.) I assume that much of the supporting cast never spoke English before doing this movie or probably after. With subtitles apparently not in the budget, the resulting dialogue is some of the best delivered you will find anywhere on Earth. If you were to try to write down a collection of “memorable quotes” from Bloodsport, it would just be a copy of the script.

So there you have it. If you have somehow managed to never see Bloodsport, you need to get the fuck on it, if not only to realize how many times you’ve unknowingly seen it referenced in other movies. It’s an American classic and you are doing yourself a disservice by remaining ignorant to its awesomeness. You should be ashamed.

I give Bloodsport infinite roundhouse kicks out of a possible 10.

Universal Soldier: Regeneration

 Posted by at 8:58 pm  Comments Off on Universal Soldier: Regeneration
Apr 242010
 

For the few of you who are unfamiliar with the “Universal Soldier” franchise (shame on you) let me bring you up to speed. So the story goes two badass soldiers die in Vietnam, and the US military (in their infinite wisdom) decides to use the dead bodies to create an army of unstoppable (though brain-dead) killing machines. Luc Deveraux (JCVD) and Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren) are the first two “UniSols” created to combat terrorist threats. The situation eventually evolves into good Unisol vs. bad UniSol when Deveraux begins to remember his past life, and Scott attempts to stomp Deveraux out of existence. Then Luc Deveraux returned for the 1999 flop, “Universal Soldier: The Return.” This was a terrible movie and most likely the reason you haven’t seen “Universal Soldier: Regeneration” yet. Well friends, when it comes to “Universal Soldier: Regeneration” let me tell you this: last night I dreamed that I punched a man to death. A man head-butted me, and I punched him in the face until he was dead. This was no coincidence. Universal Soldier: Regeneration, you made your point.

Universal Soldier: Regeneration begins with an awesome kidnapping heist. Masked men armed with automatic weapons rush into a museum and nab the son and daughter of the Russian president. Then there is a phenomenal car chase scene, and a daring escape via a helicopter. The action kicks in at about the 30 second mark and never stops. As it turns out, the presidents kids were kidnapped by the leader of a rebel group seeking to secede from Russia. To show that they mean business, the rebels have occupied Chernobyl and rigged the nuclear power plant with enough explosives to create a blast 100 times larger than that of Hiroshima. As if things weren’t bad enough, the rebels also have UniSols, in the form of Dolph Lundgren and Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski. Holy shit! Did you click on that link? Did you see that guy? I bet it’s going to take some sort of one man army to stop these fellas.

Not long into the movie it’s revealed that Luc Deveraux (remember, from the first movie?) is undergoing some kind of rehab in Switzerland in an effort to prevent his murderous tendencies and help revive his lost memories. Due to this plot device, JCVD spends the first half of the movie out of sight. This might be my chief complaint about this movie if JCVD weren’t consistently kicking the living shit out of people whenever he was on screen. The first taste of JCVD’s martial arts fury comes at the expense of some hapless Swiss towny who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. This scene is terrific and it establishes that Luc Deveraux is an untamable animal who’s eternally hellbent on taking lives. Knowing that old dogs don’t learn new tricks, Deveraux heads off to Chernobyl to put an end to an international nuclear threat, and to stop the evil UniSols once and for all.

Sure, die hard science nerds might argue the logistics of freezing and reanimating corpses, let alone the bodies ability to withstand numerous point-blank gunshot and stab wounds, but I say to hell with those science nerds, Universal Soldier: Regeneration is plain old, action packed, fun. By and large the acting is never too over the top, but director John Hyams wisely decided to keep the focus away from the script, and more on the action. As a result, JCVD, Lundgren, and Arlovski all have minimal lines in the movie, which just maximizes their ability to kick ass. It seems that after 18 years, Hyams finally realized what made the Universal Soldier franchise worth watching. After a brief search online, I found that this movie was made on a 14 million dollar budget. While that may seem like a lot of money, the original was made on a 23 million dollar budget, and those were 1991 dollars. So while the movie never feels like a blockbuster on the scale of Roland Emmerich’s original, it instead manages to feel like a well directed episode of “24” boiled down to all of the action, and this is not a bad thing. As far as JCVD movies go, put Universal Soldier: Regeneration on the top of your Netflix queue (oh, I almost forgot to mention how Dolph Lundgren dies. It involves a pipe and a shotgun and is probably the best death scene I’ve ever witnessed).

I give Universal Soldier: Regeneration: 8 Three Mile Island incidences out of 10 Chernobyl catastrophes

Death Warrant

 Posted by at 3:19 am  2 Responses »
Apr 232010
 

There’s just no two ways about it – Death Warrant is fucking bizarre.

Here’s the deal – JCVD is a Canadian cop. He hunts down some crazy dude that I guess killed some people (it’s never really explained) nicknamed The Sandman (also never explained). JCVD shoots him a bunch of times in the chest but it doesn’t kill him for some reason and I guess he’s arrested (he looked pretty dead but he shows up later quite alive so whatever).

Okay, jump ahead an oddly specific 16 months. A bunch of inmates are turning up dead in prison, so the governor of California (I think?) decides to hire JCVD to go undercover as an inmate and get the scoop. Some stuck up lady is his liaison posing as his wife. Their shitty attitudes towards each other assure us that they will never bone, so later when they do bone, it’s a surprise.

So JCVD goes undercover to a prison where there are four guards, the cell doors never close, everyone has knives and guns, and the general atmosphere is pretty much that of the Mos Eisley Cantina.

So after doing karate to a lot of people and things, JCVD finds out who’s been killing inmates and why. Unfortunately, as soon as he does, The Sandman shows up and tells everyone he’s a cop so everyone tries to kill him and A LOT of karate happens. Then JCVD wins and escapes and does some big time make-outs with the girl he didn’t like.

The whole thing really plays out like a super fucked up kid making up a story. Shit just kind of happens and everything is inexplicably surreal. Considering the myriad of completely badass movies in the JCVD catalogue, there’s really no reason you need to watch this. Unless you’re going as a Bajoran for Halloween and you want to use utter confusion to help you practice wrinkling up your nose. (Star Wars and DS9 references in the same review? AND during JCVD week? That’s fucked up!)

I give Death Warrant 2 jugs of toilet wine out of a possible 10 jugs of toilet wine.

Double Impact

 Posted by at 11:02 pm  Comments Off on Double Impact
Apr 222010
 

Listen, I know CineMEH can seem pretty dude-centric at times. What with all the talk of boobs and gore and boners and explosions and such, there must be a significant percentage of the fairer sex that feels not particularly catered to, nay, downright excluded…especially in the throes of JCVD Appreciation Week.

Well, it should be known that we here at CineMEH are anything but misogynists. In fact, I’m ovulating right now and I couldn’t be happier about it. So as a gesture of good will towards our wombed readers, I present  my review of Double Impact tailored especially for you.

I give Double Impact 10 out of 10 minutes with my shower head…AM I RIGHT?!?!?!?!

Street Fighter

 Posted by at 11:10 pm  Comments Off on Street Fighter
Apr 202010
 

So you have 35 million dollars and you want to make a movie based on a video game, huh? Sweet. That’s a really good idea.

But with so many video games out there, which one do you choose? Well, if it’s 1994, which it is in this scenario, you’d be a total dumbass not to choose the most popular game on planet fucking Earth: Street Fighter II.

There is, however, one problem with basing a movie on Street Fighter II – Aside from some character bios in the instruction manual and 30 seconds of story when you beat the game, there is no real plot to speak of. It’s just Dragon Punches and Hadoukens and getting mad at your buddies for cornering you like a bitch with E. Honda’s Body Splash even though they promised not to.

So how do you turn frustrated button-mashing into an enjoyable film experience?

Well, you could use the actual story from the Japanese game or even the arcade version. Or I suppose you could just indiscriminately smush all the game’s characters together and have them run around like assholes for an hour and a half. If you really wanted to be a dick, you could just say fuck the whole “street fighting” angle and give them all guns.

Holy shit, that’s what you did? Man, that is gonna fucking SUCK. How are you gonna get people to watch that garbage?

Oh, I see. Well played.

Street Fighter is proof positive of the true power of JCVD. By merely existing, he manages to make an unwatchable pile of shit somewhat watchable, but not in his usual fashion. It doesn’t open with him doing a flying kick off a building onto a guy’s mouth or something. In fact, he doesn’t even karate anything until like an hour and fifteen minutes into the movie, but every scene up until he does is still super intense because you know he could totally lose it and do karate at any second. He’s like a fucking coiled viper.

But JCVD doesn’t rely on this potential energy to carry his weight. The man does not rest on his laurels. No, he took shit into his own hands. In my head, his first day on set went like this:

JCVD: “Hi everybody. Now, I know this Guile character I’m playing is supposed to be some sort of pissed-off ex-Air Force guy hellbent on avenging the death of his friend, but that sounds pretty gay. From now on, he’s a handsome back-sassing loose-cannon Army Colonel who plays by his own rules in both combat and love. Cool? Cool. I’ll be in my trailer fucking whoever or whatever I want. Come get me when you need me to be awesome. Don’t bother knocking…I’m not ashamed of what I do in there.”

As a result of this assumed executive decision by a man who knows what he wants, Jean-Claude spends the majority of the movie snubbing authority and cracking wise with boyish charm rather than Flash-Kicking Russian bear-wrestlers and beating up 4-door sedans for bonus points. These quips, delivered as only JCVD could, are priceless and pure genius. I was so taken by one particular scene in which Guile is calling out M. Bison that I remixed it into a song you can bone to. (It’s only 44 seconds long, though, so you better hold your breath and concentrate really hard if you wanna finish by the end.)

JCVD #1 Summer Jam

Fun Fact: Emmy-winning actor Raul Julia played the role of evil dictator M. Bison, who is killed by JCVD in the end of the film. Mere months later, Julia died in real life – proving once and for all that if JCVD kills you…even in a movie…you stay dead.

While I may only give Street Fighter 1 out of 10 jab Yoga Fires, I give JCVD’s performance 10 out of 10 fierce Yoga Flames.

Replicant

 Posted by at 8:46 pm  Comments Off on Replicant
Apr 192010
 

Jean-Claude Van Damme can’t be expected to contain his awesome martial arts talents to just one character at a time, that’s why he’s played duel roles in not one, but two movies. In 1991, JCVD broke cinematic boundaries in “Double Impact,” playing both Alex and Chad Wagner, two brothers who were separated at birth, but reunite to kick faces and break bones. Now I know you’re thinking that nothing could possibly top two Van Dammes delivering devastating body blows side by side, but what if I told you that you could see JCVD fight himself? When you watch “Replicant,” my friends that’s exactly what you’ll get.

Replicant’s first scene features an evil JCVD kicking a woman to death. If kicking women until they’re dead doesn’t convince you that this dude is evil, his long, greasy hair should do the trick. Long haired JCVD is Edward “The Torch” Garrotte, a serial killer whose modus operandi is seeking out young mothers and burning them to a crisp. Garrotte’s been at this serial killer business for a long time, and all the while hardboiled cop, Jake Riley (Michael Rooker) has been hot on his trail. In an act of desperation the government decides to clone The Torch. Knowing that the clone would inherit all of the memories of the original, the government plans to use the replicant as a human hound dog, sniffing out all of Garrottes old haunts, and hopefully leading the feds to the maniacal killer.

Incredibly, the government decides to team up Replicant with Jake Riley, the man who above all things despises Edward Garrotte and by extension Replicant. At this point, the movie turns into an action packed version of “Rain Man,” with Rooker playing the role of Tom Cruise, and JCVD playing the role of mentally challenged killing machine. Although Replicant was able to retain some of Garrottes memories, he couldn’t remember anything else (like how to talk). Riley is forced to lead Replicant around by a leash, barking commands like “down” and “stay” as though he were a dog. At first I thought this premise was ridiculous (and I suppose it is) but about halfway through the movie I was completely invested with JCVDs dim-witted doppelgänger. I couldn’t help but feel bad for this clone, who never asked to be created and only wants to be hugged. By the time JCVD and Michael Rooker are walking through the park, ice cream cones in hand, I couldn’t have been happier.

But Replicant isn’t just a movie about a dumb but lovable clone, it’s a movie about a serial killer. While at first the action is sparse, if you wait patiently you will not be disappointed. By the second half of the movie good and evil Van Damme lock eyes and the action is set in motion. I’m not going to ruin the action, but believe me, it’s there. In the pool hall, it’s there. In the hospital, it’s there. And in the hotel with the knife wielding pimps, it’s there. Throw in a JCVD showdown, and Replicant is top-notch.

If you’re a fan of Jean-Claude Van Damme, you will not be disappointed with Replicant, and if you’re not a fan, well, I question your worth as a human being. Watch this movie and be somebody.

I give Replicant: 4 out of 5 roundhouse kicks to the heart