Jean-Claude Van Johnson (2017) Series Review

High Octane!


Jean-Claude Van Johnson had some fun ideas with some entertaining references to his classic action movies but it’s a shame it was all over the place and couldn’t really decide what it wanted to be. If you say you hate it then I totally get it but after giving it a second chance I liked it a lot more and JCVD gives one of his best performances. It’s an oddity to be sure but an interesting one.

Plot: Jean-Claude Van Damme is a name that is synonymous with action movies, but what if he was actually a secret agent and his entire film career was intended to be a front for his black ops missions? That’s the premise of this series, a tongue-in-cheek look at his life in the spotlight. Working under the (not-so-secretive) alias Jean-Claude Van Johnson, the unhappily retired action star is lured back into the spy game by a chance encounter. When he gets involved as an undercover operative, Johnson is forced to confront the greatest enemy he’s ever faced.

Review: What an odd TV show this was; I reviewed this when it first came out in 2017 but yes, you guess it another review down the toilet when the site crashed. I particularly wanted to redo my review for Jean-Claude Van Johnson as I rewatched it over the past few days and enjoyed it much better second time around. There are lot of little in-jokes I missed and some humorous one-liners referencing JCVD’s back catalogue.

Did anyone else notice in episode 4 (which might have been my favourite) that when JCVD looks at his watch the digits are the same as the Predators when he does the countdown to detonation? I loved how during one fight scene the douchebag director Gunnar complains about too much shake saying “I’m not Greengrass” which was a nice dig at the Bourne director.

The running joke about Timecop being better than Looper was hilarious too as we all know Timceop is the superior movie; Ruin Johnson directed Looper after all and it sucked just like his Star Wars movie.

Van Damme’s other character Filip was a bizarre choice and his silly voice provided a good few laughs for a while but he shouldn’t have been in more than 1 episode as it was a one note joke.

The tone of the show is mostly comedic but there are moments of pathos too and although it’s a work of fiction I couldn’t help but feel there is some truth to certain moments with Van Damme which come across as honest.

I like it how glossy the show looks as Van Damme has been starring in low budget movies for several years and to see him in something which actually looks like it has a bit of money behind it was refreshing.

It’s all very absurd and sometimes goes too far and the final scene especially was bollocks but there is something endearing about it. I think it’s the fact that it has such quirky humour and characters. There are some genuinely funny moments and the references to movies like Bloodsport and Nowhere to Run are a fan’s dream.

It felt like a missed opportunity that in episode 4 a new henchman is built up called Meni Mano (Winston James Francis) as I was kind of hoping it was going to be Bolo Yeung or Michel Quissi but sadly it wasn’t meant to be.

The series also felt like it was a whole of bunch of ideas jumbled together and some of it works better than others. I thought the last 2 episodes weren’t amazing as 4 felt like the finale. I’m not surprised it didn’t get a second season but I think it could have been streamlined into something awesome. I liked the scenes with JCVD and Vanessa as they were good together and made a good team. I thought Luis was awesome as well so it’s too bad we won’t get to see these characters again. Van Damme gives one of his best performances and there are several standout moments where he bursts into tears and it feels like he is bearing his soul. One thing I’ll say about JC is that he is fearless when it comes to roles he chooses and I love that even now he isn’t afraid to take a chance.

There was also some entertaining action with the highlight being when JC takes on some goons on his film set and the director and crew think it’s for the movie. It’s too bad the final fight was between Vanessa and a villain rather than Jean-Claude kicking ass but he does do the splits which makes it okay.

Overall, upon a second viewing Jean-Claude Van Johnson is an easy watch with only 6 episodes and it’s nice to see Van Damme in something glossy looking again as he has starred in so many lower budget movies over the years. It can be a mixed bag and it couldn’t really decide what it wanted to be but it’s at least different from anything we’ve seen Van Damme do before and if you hated it the first time I recommend giving it a second chance as there is still plenty to enjoy.