Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Top 5 JCVD Movies - #5

As an avid martial artist and a movie nut, it probably isn't all that surprising that I have such an affection for kung-fu flicks.  While it's fairly easy for me to establish the upper reaches of a hierarchy in this glorious sub-genre (Bruce Lee is king, and the Shaw Brothers catalog occupies the second rung from the top), it gets a bit murky after that.  As a child of the 80s, it's no shocker that I have mad love for Chuck, and the 90s were also very generous to my generation so far as flying kicks and karate chops are concerned.  While Steven Segal and Jean-Claude Van Damme were vying for box office supremacy on the big screen, guys like Don Wilson, Gary Daniels, and Richard Norton were kicking the shit out of the cable scene--and Jackie Chan and Jet Li were doing big business in the East.

While I enjoyed Segal's badass persona, it always bothered me that he had no real competition in his movies.  Most of his work generally consisted of him wading through hordes of low-level goons, and he rarely squared off against any real physical threats.  For the longest time, his biggest test came in the form of a coked-up William Forsythe in Out for Justice.  Meanwhile, though JCVD features piled on the cheese and chutzpah and frequently veered toward the ridiculous, he had his fair share of quality showdowns along the way.  That's primarily why I came to favor his work, and for whatever reason, I have been revisiting his catalog recently.  As I look back, I can't help but use this platform to shape and share my thoughts.

That's right, folks, it's time for another Top 5, and this one is devoted to the action move megastar known as "The Muscles from Brussels" and his acrobatic martial arts classics/cheesefests.

Top 5 JCVD Movies

#5) Cyborg (1989)

The third Van Damme movie that I ever saw (with No Retreat, No Surrender being the first and Bloodsport being the second) remains one of my favorites for many reasons.  First off, it's incredibly lean and mean.  Running a mere 86 minutes, this grim futuristic revenge saga surely ranks among the star's darkest outings.  Secondly, it features what may be his best action sequence.  The big showdown in the middle of the flick where he takes on all comers and kicks ass for a solid ten minutes or so before the numbers game and fatigue finally do him in is positively massive.  Third, I always enjoyed director Albert Pyun's hyper-charged bottom feeders, and Cyborg is probably his finest hour.  Cyborg most certainly has its flaws, to include some dodgy effects work, a narrative so simplistic that even at only 86 minutes the movie sports some padding that makes it all too redundant at times, and a climax that can't help but be overshadowed by that epic throwdown in the middle of the picture.   However, it remains a riveting showcase for JCVD.  His career was just getting started when he made this one, but his talent and charisma were evident.  The picture itself is a gripping thrill ride with one hell of a mean streak.  Including this picture on my list at #5 seems like a fair assessment, but if I'm being completely honest, it probably ranks a bit higher in my heart.

You know what?  That action sequence in the middle of Cyborg isn't just one of Van Damme's baddest setpieces, it is one of the most bone-jarring setpieces in the realm of martial arts cinema as a whole.

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