Let it be known: I love Jean Claude Van Damme movies and I don’t give a rats ass who knows it! I have seen everything from “No Retreat, No Surrender” to Direct to DVD Universal Soldier sequels, and they are all amazing. In fact, I have seen so many Jean Claude Van Damme movies, that I have identified a pattern, a formula for action movie greatness that took Jean Claude Van Damme from being a skinny kid from Belgium to the Greatest Action Movie Star Ever!*
*I’m not going to get into an argument with you. Chuck Norris is okay, Bruce Lee was alright, and Steven Seagal was a flash in the pan.
Before you get worked up and say “But A.P., you are saying his movies aren’t original!”, that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that the writers that cast JCVD knew what people liked and they delivered. You know who else knew what the people liked and delivered with semi-routine stories and plots? A playwright named William Shakespeare! If yet another movie about an unassuming bad ass kicking wholesake ass is on the menu, then I’ll have two.
The great Van Damme movies boil down to the following sequential elements:
- The Initial Predicament
- The Call Home (The Brother Ruins Everything)
- The Old Man Doesn’t Want to Train Him
- Girl Trouble
- Darkest Just Before the Dawn, and
Don’t believe me?
The Initial Predicament. Van Damme’s character is in the middle of some self-imposed exile or some existential commitment and surely leaving in the middle of it would be a grevious sin! JCVD had committed to this state of being and his superiors expect him to follow through.
- “Bloodsport” – Frank Dux is in the Army Special Forces.
- “Lionheart” – Leon is in the French Foreign Legion.
- “Universal Soldier” – Luc Deveraux is in Vietnam.
- “Kickboxer” – He’s his brother’s trainer and his brother doesn’t listen to a fucking thing he says, even when its for his own good.
The Call Home / The Brother Ruins Everything. JCVD is seeing through with his commitment dutifully. The work sucks, the hours are long, and the weather is better suited for a cobra orgy than for a human being. Word comes along that his brother, the eternal fuckstick that just couldn’t get his life together, got his ass in a jam and needs someone to bail him or his family out of a situation. The task masters from the great commitment tell JCVD that he can dry his tears over a lost brother with the pride of a long day of hard work. JCVD peaces out of his commitment quicker than the guy who owes you $50.00 stops taking your phone calls.
- “Bloodsport” – Shingo (Frank says they were like brothers) dies and now there is no one to represent the Tanaka clan at the Kumite.
- “Lionheart” – Leon’s brother is a drug dealer and other drug dealers set him on fire, leaving no one to provide for his kid.
- “Kickboxer” – Eric Sloan gets his back broken for being cocky in the ring.
- “Street Fighter” – A friend, who is like a brother, gets captured by a tyrannical mad man.
The Old Man Doesn’t Want to Train Him. Who does this guy think he is? He skips out on a big commitment, he can’t stop his brother from screwing the pooch, and now he wants to secrets of ancient martial arts to get revenege? No, fuck this guy. Fuck him, his dipshit brother, let the cops get a hold of him and take him to jail for deserting his post. …wait, he doesn’t want to do it for revenge? He just wants to heal and gain further perspective on life? Well, that’s a horse of a different color. Strap on your white belt, asswipe, the old man is going to train you!
- “Kickboxer” – Xian does not want to train Kurt in Muay Thai, only after he proves he’s a decent guy (that wants to bang his niece on the downlow) does he agree.
- “Bloodsport” – Master Tanaka, the racist jagoff that he is, doesn’t want to train Frank because he’s white. He does finally relent, after Frank uses his own backhanded logic against him.
- “The Quest” – Christopher Dubois gets sold as a slave and Khao eventually teaches him Muay Thai.
This is where you should be prepared for a BITCHIN’ training montage!
Girl Trouble. With the Old Man’s blessing, JCVD is ready to get out there and start dropping Hurt Bombs on the villain! It’s going to be a clinic in pain and JCVD is the professor! JCVD has shown up to kick people in the dick and drink margaritas, and there is no salt left! Let’s G– wait a minute? Who’s that girl over there? Surely she won’t complicate this Advanced Placement Course in Skull Crushing, right? Not only does she derail the train, but she’s bitching at the conductor for not asking for directions. She has moral objections, couldn’t possibly stand to see JCVD get hurt, and just won’t live through seeing another man in her life get hurt by the main villain. JCVD has a choice to make: sweet pillow talk with a woman or digging teeth out of his knuckles before Rosie Palm and her five sisters go to work.
- “Bloodsport” – Janice, the reporter, who thinks the Kumite is a human cockfight (It is, and its awesome).
- “Kickboxer” – Mai Lee, who was brutalized by the villain herself.
- “Universal Soldier” – Veronica Roberts, the reporter, who just gets used as human collateral for Dolph Lundgren to get JCVD by the short curlies.
- “Lionheart” – Helene, …his brothers …wife.
- “Universal Soldier: The Return” – Erin, the reporter, gets herself caught in a showdown between cyborgs with huge guns!
- “Street Fighter” – Chun Li, a reporter, who gets captured trying to avenge her father and needs JCVD to save her.
SIDE BAR: As someone who loved Street Fighter 2 on Genesis, Chun Li’s addition is sacrilege, but the 90’s where crazy times and movie adaptations were the wild west.
Darkest Just Before the Dawn. You know, it was bad enough when JCVD’s brother made a diaper disaster out of things, but it just goes ahead and gets worse. Everything that could go wrong does, there is no hope! This part of the JCVD movie usually comes along with a pensive moment of reflection accompanied by a sad song that is also pensive and morose.
- “Bloodsport” – The Military Police have found Frank in Hong Kong and his friend Jackson is probably brain dead …in Chong Li’s defense, he was probably brain dead before Chong Li stomped on his face anways.
- “Kickboxer” – Tong Po kidnapped Kurt’s brother Eric, his girlfriend had been assaulted, and some asshole stabbed a dog!
- “Lionheart” – JCVD has broken ribs and is going against a guy that is known for fucking with people before he stomps their urethras in. The cherry on this crap sundae is that JCVD’s trainer doesn’t think he’s going to win and bets an obscene amount of money against him.
Triumph! The odds were stacked so high against JCVD that no one gave him a prayer in hell of pulling out the victory. Chong Li threw salt in Frank Dux’s eyes, GR-13 held Luc Deveraux’s parents hostage, M. Bison had glowing Nikes that let him fly, and Tong Po is probably going to eat his girlfriend for lunch. Throw in the towel, man, this fight is over. You’ve come this far and there is no shame in a silver medal, right? …no! This fight isn’t over! There is a trophy, a sword, and an entire weekend of make-up sex that the girlfriend owes JCVD for winning — he can’t give up now! JCVD digs deep, finds his balls AND his spine, and comes out swinging for the fucking fences! Evil is vanquished this day! JCVD gets it all: he avenges his douchebag brother, he gets the girl, he’s got a new set of sweet martial arts skills, and he’s got a brand new skull to use as an ashtray after he’s done “celebrating” with the girl.
This blog is not to throw shade at Jean Claude Van Damme or his movies — quite the opposite. Van Damme movies made me feel awesome as a kid, and still do. Perhaps I wrote this blog to demonstrate that I can write a Van Damme movie and would love to do so. If you are Mr. Van Damme, or one of his producers, and would like yours truly to put his expertise in a script for the penultimate Van Damme, then feel free to reach out to my people at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you, Mr. Van Damme, for your movies and for the countless hours of entertainment. There is a special place for you in the Millerverse!