Monday, Nov. 03, 2008

2. Jean-Claude Van Damme as Jean-Claude Van Damme in JCVD

The Muscles from Brussels: a best actor? An actor, even? In 25 years of martial arts melodramas, he's displayed fast kicks, a surly-seraphic demeanor and an uneasy command of English. But in this low-budget French-language thriller shot in his home town, Van Damme is superb at playing himself, or, as director Mabrouk el Mechri would have it, a semi-realistic version of same: a worn-down ex-star who gets involved in a bank heist with tough guys eager to exploit his residue of celebrity. The wow moment is a six-minute take of Van Damme confessing his sins to the camera: a brave, bravura exhibition of shouting, tears, emotional scab-pulling. Is this wrenching revelation factual? Is it fake? Let's call it fake-tual, and, for now, call Jean Claude Van Damme a bold, gifted actor.