In 2008, Jean-Claude Van Damme starred in the self-parody film JCVD. The film was a great success for the Muscles from Brussels, with some even suggesting he could get an Academy Award nomination at the time (which was mostly hot air from the Oscar-prognosticators). As a huge JCVD fan, my excitement for JCVD was overbearing. I will never forget the media buzz around that film when it was released. Notably, an article from South Australia’s newspaper, The Advertiser, named “Dammed for Life” by Andrew Fenton, which I’ve now got sitting next to special edition photos of Jean-Claude. It was the first Van Damme film I ever got to watch in cinema, which I was able to do at the 2008 Adelaide Film Festival.
JCVD was his rebirth. His second chance.
It was the film that proved he could act, that he could perform at a level required to be taken seriously by anyone other than his fans. Fast forward to 2019, and JCVD found himself shuffled to the back of the queue when it comes to big budget films, and instead, is at front of the line for B, C, and (at worst) D grade action films. His martial arts skills and his fitness remains but his acting talent seems to have been squandered in lesser material once more.
Enter: The Bouncer.
Released on DVD and VOD in Australia in March 2019, The Bouncer is the story of bouncer, Lukas (van Damme taking top billing, of course), and his daughter (Alice Verset). After an incident occurs in the club he is working at he, is suddenly out of a job and struggling to make ends meet. His friend sets him up with a job opportunity at a strip club run by gangsters. Desperate, Lukas literally fights his way into his new employers’ pocket and finds himself with job once more. However, after the police find out about what happened at his old job, he becomes a police informant to save himself from being arrested and losing his daughter.
As a huge Van Damme fan, this film is almost majestic.
As Lukas, Van Damme is able to show his acting ability once more, as he is given the opportunity to show his emotions. I found it to be a great performance – but there is a specific reason for this. As with JCVD, The Bouncer uses a mixture of French and English – you may not look too much into this, but if you do, you’ll note that (unless you’re literate in French) his French sounds so much more fluent than his English. Even speaking to him in person (yes, I’ve met the man) he seems to struggle with some words. I believe that due to English not being his first language, this has affected his acting over the years, but when he is speaking predominantly French and using only short sentences in English, his acting becomes quite good, more relaxed, which makes his performance quite enjoyable. You’ve got to play to your strengths, and it’s clear from JCVD and The Bouncer where Van Damme’s strengths are, so much so that I, personally, would like to see Van Damme in more foreign films.
Aside from Van Damme’s acting, the rest of the film is also pretty good. Helmer Julien Leclercq does a great job at keeping it dark and gritty, allowing the story to flow quite nicely. The actions scenes, although there aren’t a huge amount of them, are also good. They are well placed throughout the film and keep the pacing well set. The ending is also great and unexpected, it’s almost in the same vein of The Wrester (an ironic reference as that film was Mickey Rourke’s rebirth, with Rourke also worked with Van Damme in Double Team).
If JCVD was JCVD’s second chance, then The Bouncer is the action stars third coming.
Director: Julien Leclercq
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sami Bouajila, Alice Verset
Writer: Jérémie Guez