The kicker of a conceit behind Mabrouk El Mechri's meta-action drama JCVD is that Van Damme plays himself, an aging action star whose life is already falling apart before he gets pulled into his own action film. The muscles from Brussels is back in his home town, just trying to get his life together. A custody proceeding back in California is sucking the life out of him and his career is in the toilet. Approaching 50 years old, the Van Damme of the film is still recognized everywhere he goes -- certain brands of action heroes have a shelf life that outlasts the release dates of their more popular films by at least a decade, it seems -- but that isn't translating into enough lucre to pay off the ex-wife. So Van Damme finds himself running around trying to get a money transfer and ends up at the one post office in Brussels where a robbery and hostage situation is taking place.
Continue reading: JCVD Review
Still, this French thriller is so stylish it transcends its numerous problems. It has nail-biting suspense and some great performances. It's the kind of movie America remakes -- think George Clooney, Ben Affleck, and Catherine Zeta-Jones while you're watching -- but of course, Hollywood will screw up the ending even worse, I'm sure.
Continue reading: The Crimson Rivers Review
If the play-by-their-own-rules cops in "The Crimson River" weren't speaking French and driving those little tin can police cars, it would be hard to distinguish this murder-mutilation psycho thriller from a Hollywood production starring, say, Morgan Freeman.
Taking atmospheric cues and unnecessarily lingering close-ups of corpses from American genre high-water marks like "Seven" and "Silence of the Lambs," writer-director Mathieu Kassovitz seems to be using the movie to angle for a Tinsel Town job offer. He shows off his action scene abilities with a seat-gripping car chase and a barely-in-context kickboxing fight. He sidesteps plot loopholes like a pro. He offers up comic relief sidekicks. But at the same time he spins a complex and exponentially tense mystery that inspires the audience to wrack its brain along with the heroes to put together the clues before the killer strikes again.
Said heroes are Jean Reno ("Ronin," "The Professional") and Vincent Cassel ("Elizabeth," "The Messenger"), a Paris detective and a local cop whose investigations collide in a string of gruesome murders dripping in symbolic suggestion and apparently connected to the private university in a quiet mountain town where the locals have become plagued by inexplicable birth defects.
Continue reading: The Crimson Rivers (Les Rivieres Pourpres) Review