Jean-Claude Van Damme (JCVD) was the “Perfect Storm” of my late teens, someone who beat numerous odds and overcame obstacles – not least of which was an obvious lack of acting talent – to become a bona fide action star, with all of the good and bad implications that title brings.
Consider this, JCVD has made 22 movies since his inauspicious debut in No Retreat, No Surrender in 1985 (as the “bad foreign guy”), on Rottentomatoes.com he has a career score of 5%, meaning only one of those was deemed even watchable, and get this: that one movie was made last year! So for over two decades JCVD continually managed to get hired as a lead actor and get projects off the ground despite universal critical savaging!
By the way, there are another 10 movies not even rated because they were not given a wide enough release, so his actual score may have even been lower.
So you think well OK maybe he was the people’s champion. Ehhh, not so much, moving over to imdb.com.we find that even his best wasn’t that crash hot with the net-savvy movie-viewing public…
imdb tells us that after an early Bloodsport high of 6.2 out of 10 from voters, JCVD settled in with nothing higher than 6, (but on the + side nothing lower than a 4) between 1988 and 2008, when again the actual film titled JCVD garnered a 7.4 (so far), that is a whopping 40% increase from the average score of 5.3 / 10 that the remainder of his career scored.
Other crap that the critics have savaged scores OK with the public:
Transformers 2 RT = 19% (Very Rotten) imdb = 6.2
Twilight RT = 49% (Rotten) imdb = 6.0
Australia RT = 54% (Rotten) imdb = 6.9
There are countless more examples but I can’t go on, it’s too depressing.
Suffice to say that JCVD doesn’t score high with critics and most of the time the general public, yet he keeps making movies. The public eventually came around to Mike Myers and Rob Schneider, why not JCVD? His box-office takings this decade don’t even top US $500,000, Paris Hilton’s are 64 times more than that! I think I’m going to be sick.
Where did I come in?
As far as I know JCVD got some limited recognition as the bad guy who could do the splits in No Retreat, No Surrender, a crappy Karate Kid knock off from the mid 80s that I watched but never thought much of.
Someone did, and they offered JCVD a starring role in Wrong Bet, (or Lionheart, depending on where you rented it), thus begins a tale of B movie stardom, of a fan base built more upon known outcomes than actual appeal or talent.
You knew with a JCVD film that you would see some roundhouse kicks, some bad acting and hopefully some boobeage, the introduction of the MA15+ rating owes as much to JCVD as horror flicks or those dodgy sex-comedies.
Being a teen in the late 80s and early 90s, I was in my peak video rental phase, and as has been described before on this site this meant more than weekly pilgrimages to the video shop to sift through the new release and weekly rubbish. After 2 or 3 bad new releases rented in desperation it was sometimes good to have a familiar face going through the familiar motions in familiar surroundings.
To be honest I can’t even remember most of his films now, which probably resulted in me thinking of this stupid project in the first place, and as my favourite memory of JCVD suggests I am not alone:
JCVD was at the tail end of his “even vaguely credible action hero” phase in the late 90s when he went on Letterman to promote his new film, who introduced him thusly:
“Our next guest is the star of many action films, all of them named Sudden Death.”
Along with being an off the cuff inadvertently hilarious putdown of the guy coming out to talk to him (and a guy that despite many deficiencies could put Letterman into next week) it did as succinctly as possible describe an entire career.
So to recap, we have a guy with a career approval rating of either near nothing or at the friendliest “mediocre”, and yours truly has decided to endure a progressive mini-marathon of most of his films over the next couple months. What is wrong with me?
Rather than scrawl out a bunch of increasingly half hearted reviews I thought I would stick to keeping tabs on what kept JCVD fannes coming back to the store to rent his latest crapfest based upon nothing more than name recognition.
I kept to these simple criteria:
1 – Why is he French?
A fun part of each film is how or if they try to explain the thick accent.
2 – Who is he saving/helping?
It’s an 80s/90s action movie! In order to be a hero there must be someone in need of help.
3 – Who is the Bad Guy(s)?
To help someone you must usually defeat someone naughty. (The naughtier the better.)
4 – Does he do the splits?
Any Van Damme fanne knows that this is his signature move, especially early in the career.
5 – Is he shirtless in the film?
Doesn’t matter how many push ups you do or how many ‘roids you take if no-one can see the pecs and guns.
6 – Does he hold poses after the final punch/kick? (Usually in slo-mo!)
Sort of like the exclamation mark that says “fight over”.
7 – Is the soundtrack full of bad techno / bubblegum pop?
More a feature of the second half of the JCVD career. His love of horrible music is evident.
8 – Are there any other recognisable actors in the film?
Why waste money on othere salaries when JCVD’s earns a rental on its own?
9 – Is there a love interest? (Or at least some tit!)
Do I need to draw the parellel between the fanne-base and the above point?
10 – Is the damme thing any damme good?
And by good I mean by JCVD standards, not Oscar-worthy.
So without further “adieu” (nod to the JCVD heritage) I begin the maddening adventures of possibly the world’s first Jean-Claude Van Damme movie marathon experience.
Over 20 films spanning 20+ years, over 30 hours of potentially brain-van-dammage inducing rubbish.