Bloody Sweet Revenge

Tu n'as rien sur mois et mes colleagues! Va-t'ens!Eighties and nineties international action star Jean-Claude Van Damme was written-off as another casualty of direct-to-video hell, that awful place where once-popular theatrical actors and action stars (Wesley Snipes, Steven Seagal, Dolph Lundgren, Burt Reynolds) die slowly on video. I mean, one of his last films literally read 'Van Damme In Hell' and yet along comes JCVD, a clever little suspense drama that integrates the actor playing a persona of himself caught in a bungled bank heist.

The film isn't really a comedy nor action film, but it's a career high for Van Damme. Most of the scenes play quietly, but the man has two standout moments where he reveals genuine acting chops, something I never thought existed when you flash back to guilty-pleasure crapulence like Knock Off (1998).

JCVD (released by Kaboom in Canada / Peace Arch in the U.S.) rocks, and one really hopes Van Damme doesn't squander the opportunity to make more theatrical films. Of course, as the film arrives on DVD, Van Damme and Lundgren have reteamed for Univerdal Soldier 3, but the former is also helming The Eagle Path. Stay away from Hell, JCVD...

Whereas van Damme's revenge is critical - you have to give him some credit for a such a fine film - there's the more viceral revenge in Taken (Fox), the Luc Besson-Robert Mark Kamen scripted thriller released in February of 2008 in Europe, and in early 2009 in North America.

As Kamen states quite openly in the writer commentary track, Besson wanted to be the biggest film producer in France, and he probably is as bigwig of Europacorp, except most of the company's fodder is comrprised of sequels of exponential dullness (Transporter 3, Taxi 3 and 4, Crimson Rivers 2) and an odd collection of action comedies that have yet to be released here (Yamakazi, where art thou?) or films to which American studios hold the English language rights and refuse to allow the originals to exist on DVD. (Case in point: the original Taxi is only available as a French only DVD from Quebec's Crystal, whereas the garbage American remake is available from Fox. Disgraceful, although Besson signed the deal memo, so he's culpable, dammit.)

Taken is mean, and Liam Neeson carries the film as well as most of the stellar action work, and like JCVD, Taken is proof-positive that over-forty actors can deliver more gravitas and adrenaline than a baby-faced newbie with modest biceps and a teen youth following.

Unsurprising that it took a group of French filmakers to prove it to Hollywood.



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