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Film / JCVD

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Van-Damme, the beast, the tiger in a cage

"When you're 13, you believe in your dream. Well it came true for me. But I still ask myself today what I've done on this Earth. Nothing! I've done nothing! And I might just die in this post office, hoping to start all over here in Belgium, in my country, where my roots are. Start all over with my parents and get my health back, pick up again. So I really hope... nobody's gonna pull a trigger in this post office... It's so stupid to kill people. They're so beautiful. So, today, I pray to God. I truly believe it's not a movie. It's real life. Real life."
Jean-Claude Van Damme, in a moment of reflection

JCVD is a Dramedy film directed by Mabrouk El Mechri and starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as Jean-Claude Van Damme, released in 2007.

A tired, washed-out failure, struggling for work and (subsequently) money, the film starts with JCVD returning to his hometown of Brussels, Belgium. When one day going to the local Post Office to arrange a wire transfer, he suddenly finds himself smack-bang in the middle of a robbery, held at gun point and marched into the back with the other customers and staff, where he's forced to juggle their expectations of "the Muscles from Brussels" with the fact he's a 48 year old man who really doesn't want to get shot.

His day does not improve from there.

Quite probably the finest film Jean Claude Van Damme has starred in for years (possibly ever), and immediately recognized as such when it was released. It gets a lot of mileage out of both the public's perception of him, and the current state of his career.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Ascended Fanboy: One of the robbers is a huge fan of Jean-Claude Van Damme, and his hero just comes in the post office he is working in. The two boys in the video club also count.
  • As Himself: Jean-Claude Van Damme.
  • Bittersweet Ending: JCVD is in prison, but he can meet his daughter
  • Boring, but Practical: At the end, in his Imagine Spot, Jean-Claude first pictures taking out the gunman holding him hostage with a flashy high kick, but when it comes to the act itself just goes with a straight elbow-shot to the guy's gut, which works just as well.
  • Character Title: And also some kind of Mononymous Biopic Title, but it is not a Biopic of Jean-Claude van Damme.
  • Deadly Dodging: In the opening film-within-a-film, Van Damme dodges a machete slash from a mook who accidentally kills another.
  • Deconstruction: For starters, action heroes (even ones that keep fit like Van Damme) get old and have it harder to find work. Second: while action films allow someone to be an invincible One-Man Army, in a real hostage situation nobody wants to be the wanna-be hero that gets blown away because he was stupid.
  • Die Hard In A Bank: A very clever deconstruction of this trope.
  • Fake Action Prologue: The opening scene is a Show Within a Show
  • Imagine Spot: Jean-Claude imagines himself taking out the final robber singlehandedly, and the crowd cheering him on. He does manage to elbow the man in the gut before the police finish the job for him.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Seemingly enforced in the opening film-within-a-film (which seems to run on Stylistic Suck); but a flamethrower-operating mook somehow missed Van Damme who's standing barely 5 meters in front of him! It appears to be intentional as a jab at the B-grade action films Van Damme often stars in.
  • Logo Joke: JCVD himself appears in the opening Gaumont logo, trying to steal the daisy from the boy. The boy refuses, but JCVD responds with a roundhouse kick, before spending the daisy up in the sky as the rest of the logo plays normal (albeit sepia).
  • Man on Fire: The opening film-within-a-film has a mook getting set alight. After the scene ended the extra playing the mook is quickly doused by a fire extinguisher.
  • Nice Guy: JCVD is portrayed as one of these throughout the film, which is lampshaded by the owners of the shop across the street from the bank
  • The Oner: The movie opens with a fairly epic one in-universe which fails due to a window not blowing up and a set piece falling down at the end. Van Damme complains to the director that he's too old to be doing these complicated long shots.
    • And there's another later, with JCVD's very long monologue.
  • Playing Possum: The opening prologue have Van Damme pretending to be a corpse during the fake movie. The credits are notably imposed over Van Damme.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Happens to one of the robbers partway through the film. Just a small smoking hole in the forehead. He even keeps talking as he dies.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: Most of the action of the film centers around the police and the robbers not being entirely sure what the other one is doing, or at least having a distorted perception of motives
  • Take That!: Jean-Claude's fanboy complains about John Woo's behavior, how he dumped JCVD when he became famous in Hollywood. There is also a joke about Steven Seagal.
  • Taking the Kids
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Played straight for one robber, averted for another one.
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: Subverted. Jean Claude is convicted and serves time for embezzlement that he performed while being threatened by the actual robbers. On the other hand, the police thought for a moment there that he was working with the hostage takers, so yeah...