Jean Claude Van Damme's Overlooked THE BOUNCER Is His Version of 'The Wrestler'
In 1998 Jean Claude Van Damme starred in a strange meta drama titled JCVD. The film was cerebral and emotional and showed the world what most of his die hard fans probably knew deep down:
Jean Claude Van Damme is a good emotional and dramatic actor.
This was lost on people because of his (awesome) outlandish 80’s action movies, his sometimes struggles with English and a comedic aspect he’d bring to certain characters. Van Damme has always felt as though he has good comedic timing and he’s right. Anyone who took the time to see the short lived Amazon show Jean Claude Van Johnson (Clearly, also very meta) can see that. The show might have failed in production and writing aspects, but Van Damme was always hilarious and self aware.
Thought there’s nothing funny about this film, fast forward to 2019 and someone has finally taken advantage of both Van Damme’s physical and dramatic acting capabilities. Unbelievable that it took eleven years after he proved his point for someone to take both of his talents and meld them together. But it did, and all because someone finally took him seriously. That man is French director Julien Leclercq (The Assualt, The Crew) and Van Damme fans the world over should thank him.
The Bouncer plays a lot like Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive without the fanciness. Don’t confuse that with production value however, because the cinematography and camera work are every bit as impressive. There’s nothing that feels low budget about this.
The film is quiet, gloomy and also feels a lot like Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler in that he camera follows our weathered lead character around so closely that you can feel the cold and mechanical nature of his surroundings.
It’s a shame it most likely won’t be recognized in a fraction of the same fanfare. Except among us Van Damme fans ofcourse. Word will get around.
The plot plays out and we learn that tragedy has left Lukas (Van Damme) as a broke, single parent of an eight year old girl. He uses his skills as a previous bodyguard to become a bouncer at annoying techno clubs to try and make ends meet so he can care for her.
As his shitty luck would have it some jerk gets seriously injured trying to inflict violence on him and he’s blamed for it under nefarious circumstances. When he gets more work at an underground strip club (which involves an awesome fight scene) local Law Enforcement use his precarious position to force him to infiltrate the criminal orginization that owns the club.
Lukas is then stuck trying to figure out how to stay out of jail and keep his daughter safe when the crew he’s working for begin to threaten her safety.
‘The Bouncer’ takes itself seriously but doesn’t reach for art film status like so many others with its aura would have. This is something to appreciate. It’s simply a crime drama about a man trying to keep safe the only thing he has left in the world…..and they filmed it ridiculously well.
The film also shows off Van Damme’s physical capabilities as Lukas finds himself in several situations he has to fight or escape his way out of. I can’t say enough about the smooth direction of Julien Leclercq to the point where I’m excited to check out his previous work. Even if it is in a different language.
Perhaps the best part about The Bouncer is that Van Damme fans will be able to appreciate him in a straight up solid movie for once. No gimmicks. He’s not some trainer with four badly written lines (looking at you Kickboxer: Retaliation). He’s not doing a meta thing. He’s not a side character. He’s the main star of a seriously good movie that showcases all of his abilities.
Fuck me, how long have we all been waiting for that to happen again? Decades? Get excited Van Damme fans, this is the real deal! Hopefully Hollywood will take notice. 9/10! For more Jean Claude Van Damme goodness like this be sure to subscribe to our newsletter below!
*This article was originally written on my Medium page a few years back. Wanted to give it some new life because unfortunately, nobody ever seemed to notice this flick*