February 21, 2014

The Light & Dark Sides of JCVD

It’s no secret that we are big fans of Jean-Claude Van Damme here at The Action Elite; I grew up watching his movies and he was, as you all know my childhood hero.

With such roles as Frank Dux, Luc Deveraux, Kurt Sloan, Chance Boudreaux and more under his belt, Van Damme had proven himself one of the best action heroes in the business.

The fight scenes in Bloodsport, Kickboxer and Lionheart were exciting, with characters you could really root for. Leon Gaultier in Lionheart was essentially JCVD’s “Rocky” giving us an underdog we could get behind and we really wanted him to overcome every obstacle.


He did play a few villains in Black Eagle and No Retreat No Surrender, but they were quite light roles and weren’t all that serious.

Then, in the late 90’s he made a few (ahem) poor personal decisions and his career in Hollywood came to an abrupt halt.

He would go on to make a lot of straight to DVD movies, mostly filmed in Europe and he would rarely play a hero. Gone were the days of him playing someone to cheer for and a lot of the roles were very dark. Movies like Until Death where he would play a drug addicted dirty cop who ends up finding redemption reflected his real life inner torment.

His characters would be tortured souls who had made bad decisions in the past and would come back to haunt them. His eyes no longer smiled and were filled with regret and sadness; the movies would also mostly lack any humour.

In Hell would be one of his toughest movies as JCVD is sent to prison and has to go through a brutal ordeal fighting to the death.

In Replicant he would play dual roles but serial killer Edward Garrotte is arguably Jean-Claude’s darkest character; a man who murders mothers in particularly nasty fashion.

One of his more recent movies Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning was so utterly different from the original movie in terms of tone and character. Luc is no longer our hero but essentially the main villain who kills Scott Adkin’s family… kinda. The movie is brutally violent, bearing little resemblance to the fun cheese of the original Uni Sol.

Don’t get me wrong, I think a lot of the films are excellent; Wake of Death and 6 Bullets are especially good.

After a decade of such dark fare it felt like JCVD was punishing himself for his past misdeeds and each movie would be a kind of catharsis, none more so than the self-titled JCVD. In this movie Jean-Claude plays himself and he candidly talks about his battle with drug addiction and how it damaged his career. It’s one of the most honest roles he’s ever played and really proved what a good actor he actually is.

It would be Sylvester Stallone who would give him a shot at Hollywood again in The Expendables 2; once again playing a villain but he ended up being the highlight of the movie and was the best villain of 2012.

He would end up playing another great villain in Enemies Closer at the end of 2013; Xander was a fun role where he really channeled The Joker.

The first movie in many years which brings back the “fun” Van Damme would be Welcome to the Jungle; a comedy where he would play an ex-marine called Storm Rothchild who would take a group of office workers on a retreat to a tropical island. Things go awry and we finally get to see the funny side of Jean-Claude Van Damme. Although the film was hit and miss, there is no denying that it belonged to JCVD.

I hope we get to see more of the lighter side of Van Damme over the coming years; he’s been punished enough for mistakes pretty much any hypocrite in Hollywood has made and I want to see him play a true hero again.

One thing that has remained constant throughout his entire career is Jean-Claude Van Damme’s devotion to his fans; he regularly interacts on his Facebook page and chats with fans on Skype, making him one of the most approachable of all of the action stars.

In his 50’s now, JCVD has calmed down and is all about his family. His recent reality TV show Behind Closed Doors, showed us what a fragile person he is; suffering from Bi-Polar Disorder he would be prone to fits of depression but always kept going by his loving wife Gladys and kids Kris and Bianca.

He also cares deeply for animals and their well-being; he has helped many dogs recover from injuries or abandonment and watching him walking along the beach with them really shows that it’s the simple things that bring the most happiness.

Be under no doubt that no matter where JCVD’s career leads and what kind of roles he takes on, we will always be huge fans.

About the Author

Eoin Friel
Eoin Friel
I grew up watching JCVD, Sly and Arnold destroy bad guys, blow things up and spew one-liners like it's a fashion statement. Action is everything I go to the movies for and the reason I came up with this site is to share my love for the genre with everyone.



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