By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Jean-Claude Van Damme may be 57 years-old, but he can still kick ass on screen like any action star, thirty years his junior. After a bit of a lull following his stardom during the 1980s and ’90s, the actor made quite the comeback with his appearances in various films, including a villainous turn in The Expendables 2. However, his greatest critical and popular success has been in his Amazon TV series Jean-Claude Van Johnson. Well, the more mature “Muscles from Brussels” has a new action flick that screened at Fantastic Fest this year. The Bouncer definitely has a more serious and dramatic tone than much of the star’s body of work. This makes the movie even more refreshing, given that Van Damme is often known for action films with some campy beats.JCVD stars as Lukas, a tired and bruised former bodyguard who now lives a low-key life in Brussells as a nightclub bouncer. Lukas merely wants to make a proper, honest living for him and his eight year-old daughter Sarah (Alice Verset). When an altercation with a customer get him fired, Lukas desperately seeks other work and manages to do so at a strip club. However, this particular establishment has direct ties to a high-profile Flemish criminal gang. This risky undertaking puts Lukas in a very tight spot, as the police soon force him into working as an informant.
I absolutely love this gritty and nasty bruiser of a film. Writer Jérémie Guez and director Julien Leclercq have created a dark and violent world where getting out unscathed is nearly impossible. Though the filmmakers are not reinventing the wheel here, they still make quite an impression with compelling protagonists, malicious villains, brutal violence, and intense action. As Lukas, JCVD is tremendous. Though his character obviously is a bit worn and weary, his endurant heart drives him and will forever beat resolutely to care for and protect his daughter. This film is just another great example JCVD’s star power and a wonderful show of his versatility.