Jan 31 2009
Over the Christmas break, I saw Dog Day Afternoon for the first time and loved it. Pacino was at his finest with his usual powerful energy, but with more control than he exerted later in his career. The film, which was more about celebrity culture than a botched bank heist, captured an era, captured a mindset and captured the imagination of its audience.
33 years later, the mussels from Brussels, Jean Claude Van Damme stars in his own twist on the classic heist scenario……and it’s actually pretty damme good.
On B’dum‘s recommendation I picked up JCVD in HMV yesterday and, much to Lottie‘s initial chagrin, we sat down to watch it yesterday evening. Strangely, the first thing about the movie that stood out was the impressive, all in one shot, opening action scene finishing on a funny interplay between Van Damme and the Director. It was clear this was not going to be a regular action film, nor a regular Van Damme throwaway flick.
In Belgium having lost custody of his daughter, a penniless Jean Claude pops into a post office to receive a money transfer to pay for his legal fees and becomes the main protagonist in a heist. While Dog Day Afternoon focuses on picking apart the media and America’s obsession with ‘celebrity’ in the 70’s, JCVD is more interested in deconstructing the actual ‘movie star’. This post-modern thriller, writen and directed by Mabrouk El Mechri goes further than simply poking fun at the twilight years of a once massive Hollywood star – it bores deep and pulls apart his life, culminating in a soon-to-be-classic scene where Van Damme literally ascends out of his life to gave a truly emotional discourse on the nature of his current existence. Yes, Jean Claude Van Damme is philosophical, thoughtful, emotive and most of all, proves he can act.
This film is no masterpiece but it does deserve some recognition. The ending doesn’t fit perfectly. It’s incongruent with the rest of the film and doesn’t give the final satisfaction I hoped for. That said, it does not take from the rest of the movie and as the credits rolled I found myself looking back over Van Damme’s impressive performance.
So, is this the start of Van Damme’s comeback? Perhaps! 2010 sees the teaming up of some of Hollywood’s biggest action stars, both former and present. Fan boys may be disappointed by the lack of violence and heavy action in JCVD, but The Expendables with Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke and Jason Statham, among others, looks like a crowd pleaser. It ill be iteresting to see the impact that movie makes.
To conclude the comparison between JCVD and Dog Day Afternoon, I’m not sure JCVD will stand the test of time as well as its 70’s counterpart, but at the moment, I’d rather sit down and watch Van Damme again first. This pacy, clever and very funny film is worth a look. I have it on DVD if anyone wants a loan. 🙂