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
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