• Year:2009
  • Rating:M
  • Director:Mabrouk El Mechri
  • Cast:Karim Belkhadra, Francois Damiens, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Anne Paulicevich
  • Release Date:April 09, 2009
  • Distributor:Transmission
  • Running time:97 minutes
  • Film Worth:$13.50
  • FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

“…a brave, unusual, amusingly self-reflexive film…”


If you thought that Mickey Rourke had the market cornered on comebacks with his transcendent performance in Darren Aronofsky's masterpiece The Wrestler, then think again. Also shoulder-charging his way into the action is washed up martial arts hero Jean-Claude Van Damme; sure, he might not pick up an Oscar nomination like Rourke did, but the one-time Belgian superstar delivers truly incendiary and strikingly revealing moments here that hint at hitherto unseen depths of feeling and acting talent. As Rourke owes it to Aronofsky, so Van Damme is indebted to exciting young filmmaker Mabrouk El Mechri, who pushes his leading man to exciting new heights.

Unhappy with his career, and putting his once-toned-but-now-tiring body through action work that it can no longer handle in B-grade hit-and-kick flicks, Jean-Claude Van Damme has struck a dead end. He's lost a role to Steven Seagal, and he's fighting for custody of his daughter, who pretty much thinks that her father is a joke. As if things couldn't get any worse, Van Damme finds himself slam-bang in the middle of a hostage crisis while going about his daily business.

Though the hostage plot is familiar, and director El Mechri's toying with narrative and structure occasionally becomes tiring, Jean-Claude Van Damme makes this a consistently fascinating film. Battered, bruised and forlorn, he paints a haunting picture of broken dreams and shattered promises. In one mesmerising, surreal and obviously improvised scene, Van Damme indulges in something close to primal scream therapy, bravely excoriating himself for the mistakes that he's made and the people that he's hurt along the way. It's nothing short of extraordinary, and forms the flinty centrepiece of a brave, unusual, amusingly self-reflexive film that never lets its cheekiness outshine its humanity. 

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