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Jean-Claude Van Damme returns to his home country to find peace and refuge from tax problems, custody hearings and the media. A visit to the post office will change his life and our world’s perception of him forever.
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“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.” Jean-Claude Van Damme is not getting any younger. He is about to lose custody of his daughter to his ex-wife, he has serious tax problems and he just lost a money job to Steven Seagal. In search for some tranquillity and to reconnect with his parents he returns to his birthplace in Belgium. Only to find out that his assets have been frozen and he can’t pay his legal fees. His first stop is the post office where he hopes to withdraw some money. This will also be his last stop.
The producers of this movie had an agreement with Jean-Claude van Damme for him to play himself in a movie. Writer/Director Mabrouk el Mechri came onboard to rewrite the script, with the request that he met with Van Damme before in order to not waste anyone’s time. He was later on brought in to direct. Supposedly parts of the dialogue and the monologues are improvised. Since Van Damme is in fact playing himself, this is a technique that didn’t prove to be too difficult for him.
Van Damme’s acting is at an all time high in this movie. Maybe it will even lead him to landing some serious roles. Although I must admit that it is hard to take a muscular package like him serious, but if both Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler could cross over from comedy to drama then it could also be possible for someone like Van Damme.
The opening sequence where Van Damme is seen on set of a low budget war movie had to be shot last due to insurance reasons. It is shown first because it is not only great exposition but more so highly ironic. Here is Van Damme fighting everyone in sigh with guns, knifes, flamethrowers and his fists and all in one take. It shows us what has become of the genre Van Damme once dominated and ridicules unrealistic violence.
The psychological aspect of this movie is not forgotten. Discussions between the hostages and Van Damme inside the post office sometimes tend to be quite the psychiatry session. And a reversal of the Stockholm syndrome takes place almost entirely due to Van Damme’s stardom. “The Van Damme Syndrome” is a feature that I don’t think I have ever come across before in cinema. That alone is worth seeing this movie over.
This is also a classic tale of perception versus actual facts. The public and the viewers assume that they know Van Damme, but as it turns out life is nothing like a movie. Van Damme might be a master of karate, but he is not a master of his own life. And the attempted robbery is neither well planned nor perfectly timed like in the movies. It is almost like it’s a tale of an ordinary man caught in an unordinary situation, although Van Damme is everything but ordinary. Jan Claude Van Damme truly is JCVD and this is the best we have seen him since Bloodsport (Newt Arnold 1988).