5 Van Damme Things

POSTED: September 4, 2008 14:33 | By: Carol Borden

So here are 5 things I like about Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. In no particular order because I’m not a good geek and can never figure out what I like most and less most and all that.

1. The Accent Thing

In every Jean-Claude Van Damme movie there is an explanation for why Jean-Claude Van Damme speaks French. Conan and the Terminator might just happen to have Austrian accents and Sean Connery can play an immortal Spanish caballero or a Russian sub commander with a suspend-your- own-damn-belief sang froid, but Van Damme movies explain why the main character’s a francophone. I love these explanations. He’s a Cajun who died in Vietnam only to be reanimated as an easily overheated black ops super soldier. He’s a deserter from the French Foreign Legion. No, wait, he’s a boxer from Marseilles paid to take a dive and ends up in the Foreign Legion. He’s Quebecois and a former hockey player. But he’s not Belgian. Well, till now.

"Si, I am Spanish."
“Si, I am Spanish.”

2. Hong Kong

After living in Hong Kong and getting a break with Corey Yuen‘s No Retreat, No Surrender, Jean-Claude Van Damme tried to bring Hong Kong directors like John Woo (Hard to Kill), Tsui Hark (Knock Off; Double Team) and Ringo Lam (Maximum Risk; In Hell), as well as cinematographer Peter Pau (Double Team), some love in Hollywood when the Hong Kong film community was feeling a little anxious about the 1997 handover.

JCVD helps John Woo out.
JCVD helps John Woo out.

If it didn’t always work out so well, it’s not his fault. But you can’t deny he loves Hong Kong and tried to do right by it. Besides, somehow his movies always kind of remind me of Hong Kong movies, just a little askew. He’s a Time Cop. He’s twins. He’s a cyborg. He’s learning to feel again.

3. Widows and Orphans

B movies involve a lot of freedom–even if they’re big budget B movies–and sometimes I get a sense of the fantasy life of the people involved. I find it positively adorable that many of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s films hearken back to the days of wrestling movies. He’s a stray picking up strays. Van Damme’s characters don’t usually fight to save the world or save the environment or protect the president. Usually, they’re just in it to save the widows and orphans. Who usually help his character learn to feel again, one way or the other. And that actually gives a small, independent action movies a nice center to work around.

"Step away from the widows and/or orphans."
“Step away from the widows and/or orphans.”

4. The Butt Thing

One of my favorite scenes in any of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s movies is in Universal Soldier, when his character, Luc Devereaux requires ice STAT! Because his butt is going to overheat. Well, actually, Luc Devereaux is going to overheat. But it sure seems butt-oriented. A lot of his movies are butt-oriented, and mostly oriented around his butt and the certainty that the audience would want to see it. And that kind of cheerful narcissism is strangely charmingly engaging. As is a willingness to poke fun at himself and his butt.

You can't see the butt, but you know it is there.
You can’t see the butt, but you know it is there.

And that all brings me to my final thing I like about Jean-Claude Van Damme movies

5. Sincere, But Not too Serious

Jean-Claude Van Damme movies are sincere, but don’t take themselves or him too seriously. I can’t wait to see JCVD.

This post originally appeared on a now defunct version of the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness Blog.


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