On the face of it, these stars are just being themselves

Joseph V. Amodio
Newsday (MCT)

"Put him with the others," says a bank robber, as Jean-Claude Van Damme enters a bank and stumbles upon a heist-in-progress.

"Are you nuts?" asks another robber. "It's Jean-Claude Van Damme!"

Things get complicated from there in the self-referential action farce "JCVD," which stars JCVD as ... himself. Everyone in the film recognizes the aging kickboxing star, and the cops figure he's in on the crime.

He's certainly in on the joke - and he's not alone. Meta-movies have been popping up since this summer's comedy "Hamlet 2," starring Elisabeth Shue as Elisabeth Shue. Others include "What Just Happened?" with Sean Penn and Bruce Willis as Penn and Willis, respectively; and "My Name Is Bruce," with "Burn Notice" sidekick and cult horror film phenom Bruce Campbell as ... well, you get the idea.

These aren't just cameos played for laughs. Meta flicks - like 1999's "Being John Malkovich" - try for something meaningful. Granted, "Being" was essentially fake. The on-screen Malkovich hardly resembled the real one. Willis, too, in "What?," likely isn't as beard-obsessed as his cinematic doppelganger. And Campbell's not nearly that drunk and lecherous. Presumably.

The actor closest to revealing the truth is the action hero. It's "the truth from a past life," Van Damme admits. "It came from an itinerary of love and scars, a final stopping point of dreaming strongly."

If you think that's deep, wait'll you hear his mid-film monologue, when he rises above the set and reveals everything from his foibles (past drug abuse) to the curious nature of fame.

It's an odd, original moment in this moody suspenser where the "Muscles From Brussels" gets to, yes, act. Respectably, even.

Campbell, who not only played but directed himself in a film that lampoons his career, has a more sanguine take. "The difficult thing was directing myself because I kept asking myself so many questions," he quipped. "Eventually I stopped talking to myself."

His final tip seems only half in jest: If you play yourself in a movie, "make sure the director has a different name than you."





How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?


The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.


'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.


​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.


Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.


Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.


Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.


Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.


Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.


Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.