30 Years of Jean-Claude Van Damme
According to AMG (courtesy of Fandango), Jean Claude’s first film was 30 years ago in 1983 with the romantic french comedy MONACO FOREVER.
So to celebrate 30 film years of Jean Claude Van Damme we’ll start with this simple article listing his filmography over these thirty years, along with random notes.
MONACO FOREVER (1983)
BLACK EAGLE (1986)
NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER (1988) – The film that put the world champion kick-boxer turned actor on the map, here playing a villain
BLOODSPORT (1988)- His first starring/hero role
CYBORG (1989)- A panned film when not being overlooked, this sci-fi flick mixing a dystopian future with lots of action, while undeniably low budget and of its time, I personally am a huge fan of.
DEATH WARRANT 1990
LION HEART 1991
DOUBLE IMPACT 1991
UNIVERSAL SOLDIER 1992
HARD TARGET 1993
NOWHERE TO RUN 1993
STREET FIGHTER (1994) -With the under-performance of this film is where the brakes on Van Damme’s skyrocketing popularity and career (already lessening a bit from NOWHERE TO RUN) began getting applied
SUDDEN DEATH (1995) – A good movie, perhaps one of his best from that period, it possessed a ‘DIE-HARD’ premise to it, it nevertheless underperformed at the theaters.
THE QUEST (1996) –
MAXIMUM RISK (1996) – His first of many impressive collaborations with Director Ringo Lam, Lam was the first director to get a real performance out of Van Damme, and a fantastic and very nuanced and heart-felt performance it is. It would signal the changing of the guard for Van Damme’s career as his drawing power as a mainstream action star would start drying up, and smaller budget, direct to video films would be the order of the day, but Van Damme as actor would increasingly emerge. MAXIMUM RISK is one of my favorite Van Damme films.
DOUBLE TEAM (1997)- Tsui Hark, following in the footsteps of fellow country-men John Woo and Ringo Lam, chooses Van Damme to make his Hollywood directorial debut. Unfortunately the film is a creative and commercial misstep, that would signal the beginning of the end to Hollywood’s love-affair with Van Damme.
DESERT HEAT (1998) –
KNOCK OFF (1998) –
LEGIONAIRRE (1999) –
UNIVERSAL SOLDIER:THE RETURN (1999) – For all intents and purposes the end (for a time) of Van Damme’s Hollywood Career.
REPLICANT (2001)- The 21st century has arrived, and the rise of home video and DVD makes direct to video (DTV) productions possible. Alternative avenues to get your movie out there for studios that cannot get or afford theatrical distribution. DTV would allow Van Damme, and other abandoned once Hollywood darlings (such as Seagal and Snipes)to continue making movies. REPLICANT, a merely serviceable film, is the first of Van Damme’s next phase of his film career.
THE ORDER (2001) –
DERAILED (2002) –
IN HELL (2003)- A fantastic Van Damme performance and film, helmed by Ringo Lam
WAKE OF DEATH (2004) – Another fantastic DTV film. This and IN HELL showing the older Van Damme not just a better actor than in his youth, but making better films. As both of these films are better than anything he produced in his Hollywood years, with the exception of MAXIMUM IMPACT and SUDDEN DEATH.
SECOND IN COMMAND (2006) –
THE HARD CORPS (2006) –
SINAV (2006) –
UNTIL DEATH (2007)-
THE SHEPHERD: BORDER PATROL (2007)
JCVD (2008) – This is the movie that really revitalized Van Damme’s image, and by so doing, his career. Part action/heist flick, part psuedo-documentary, part bio-pic, it’s a deeply personal film that uses innovative 4th wall breaking cinematography and exciting story and action, and a wrenching performance by Van Damme to make it one of Van Damme’s most critically lauded films.
In many ways JCVD signals the third phase of his career, his return to mainstream prominence while continuing to also do his DTV work, a two pronged ‘best of both worlds’ approach where Van Damme is increasingly the action equivalent to Brando (in terms of longevity) to younger actors’ Pacino. He brings the name and gravity and they bring the youth and the bulk of fight scenes. Most notably this dynamic is seen in his very successful, recent collaborations with the amazing Scott Adkins.
UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION (2009)- A direct result of JCVDs popularity, sporting an exciting new director in John Hyams and littered with brutally talented young MMA performers, this is a sequel that completely improves upon its inane and mediocre predecessors. It is, without reservation, a great action film.
THE EAGLE PATH (2010)-
KUNG FU PANDA 2 (2011)-
ASSASSINATION GAMES (2011) -Another fantastic action/thriller co-starring Scott Adkins.
SIX BULLETS (2011)-A strong first half, goes off the rails at the end with the parents unbelievably becoming Mr and Mrs Rambo.
DRAGON EYES (2012)-
EXPENDABLES 2 (2012) – A rare return to villain status for Van Damme. Good to see him back, thanks to Stallone, in Hollywood’s good graces.
UNIVERSAL SOLDIER:DAY OF RECKONING- Van Damme’s third collaboration with John Hyams, while sporting very little Van Damme, is a home-run and illustrates a bit of that passing of the torch that is going on between him and Scott Adkins (with that whole Apocalypse Now vibe running through it). I loved REGENERATION and DAY OF RECKONING is even better. Part Horror, part sci-fi, part thriller, part action, it is some of the most exciting film-making I’ve seen in a while. Really quite impressive.
And 2013 and 2014 has other projects in the pipeline for Van Damme, and whether these projects are met with accolades or are derided, the given is Van Damme himself shall continue to be a charismatic and watchable screen presence, that gives his all.
I look forward to seeing the work yet to come.
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