Jean-Claude Van Johnson – Amazon’s One Trick Pony?

Logo for Jean-Claude Van Johnson

Amazon’s pilot season is here and first up is “Jean-Claude Van Johnson” starring JCVD as himself, but not in his usual role of action hero.  In this outing Jean-Claude has a hidden side, a “black-ops” side.  Both JCVD and JCVJ are retired. Van Johnson, however steps out of retirement, which in turn brings Van Damme back into the business.

In some ways, this all feels too Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. While Jean-Claude  Van Damme is not Chuck Barris  in disguise, the premise is very much the same as the memoir. A famous figure has a double life as a trained wet work operator (or on Barris’ case a CIA agent.)

The pilot and its star are funny.  Although it is disturbing to see Jean-Claude looking “rough as old Harry.”  The muscles from Brussels may only be 56, and his physique looks years younger, but his visage looks more than a little worn.

Still, JCVD carries off his comic role with aplomb regardless of his battered features.

The storyline has Van Damme at a low point in his life.  He may live in a mansion and have coconut water coming out of the taps (faucets) but the man is clearly depressed.   He decides to un-retire when he bumps into old flame Vanessa (Kat Foster) who is leaving for a mission in Bulgaria. 

Jean-Claude meets with his agent Jane (Phylicia Rashad).  After going through a pile of Paramount scrips,  she learns that he is returning as “Johnson” not Damme. He gets sent to Bulgaria to work on a film as JCVD but has a black ops mission as JCVJ. 

The pilot is chock full of gags.  A lot of these poke fun at Jean-Claude and his getting older. Although we never believe for an instant that the man known for his splits suddenly has a problem.

“Jean-Claude Van Johnson” has a number of jokes aimed at the industry and society’s preoccupation with all things “PC.” The film in Bulgaria is a re-imaging of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.  The gag, apart from Tom being a buxom blonde female, is “N” word Jim. (This will only mean something to fans of the Mark Twain books.)

There is an amusing reference to Timecop.  Van Johnson says it is comparable to Bruce Willis’ Looper “but a thousand times better.”  At his assignment, JCVJ is in disguise and everyone calls him, “Philippe.”  A nice build up to a funny moment.

The basic premise is that Jean-Claude is following his former lover Vanessa into the business.  Never mind that Kat Foster is 18 years younger than JVCD…

None of this is to be taken seriously however. It is a giggle, a lark for the fans of Van Damme.  Although exactly how it can be stretched for a weekly format is unclear. JCVD as an unrecognizable retired action star is funny. But how are they going to maintain the “out of shape” bit?

Still, the pilot is amusing. There is a bit with a flexible baton and Jean-Claude’s face that is very funny. A few other sight gags work well also and while the entire episode is not exactly “laugh out loud” funny, it does provoke many a chuckle.

(In terms of jokes, the “one at a time” gag is quite good as well.)

“Jean-Claude Van Johnson” may not really take off as a series.  Amazon may have some brilliant ideas but it does seem too much like a one trick pony. (Or a one joke show.)  In the pilot  Van Damme is good with his comedic role, opting to play it straight for all intents and purposes. And this works brilliantly.

Fans will definitely want to give this one a look. It is streaming on Amazon right now as part of their Pilot Season. Check out the trailer below and then check out the show. It is free as part of the “pilot” promotion.

Jean-Claude Van Damme the Secret Behind that Split

Jean-Claude Van Damme the Secret Behind that Split

The advertisement  that features Jean-Claude Van Damme doing a split between two Volvo FM trucks while they reverse down a stretch of road has earned the action star more fans than ever. While the stunt looks impressive, though, there is a secret behind that split. Volvo has confirmed that the actual stunt did indeed take place but that it was done safely by professional.


Jean-Claude Van Damme the Secret Behind that Split

Jean-Claude Van Damme the Secret Behind that Split

The advertisement  that features Jean-Claude Van Damme doing a split between two Volvo FM trucks while they reverse down a stretch of road has earned the action star more fans than ever. While the stunt looks impressive, though, there is a secret behind that split. Volvo has confirmed that the actual stunt did indeed take place but that it was done safely by professional.


Jean-claude Van Damme You Are Never Too Old for a Comeback

Jean-claude Van Damme You Are Never Too Old for a Comeback

Mention the name Jean-Claude Van Damme and it makes one think of Steven Seagal, Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee. The image of a spinning 360 degree head kick also springs to mind. The “muscles from Brussels” has been proving that you are never too old for a comeback. To take it one step further, he has also shown that you are never too old to have a viral video.

The Expendables 2 (2012): Twice the Fun

For pure escapism and a plot that has more holes in it than a hunk of Swiss cheese, you cannot beat The Expendables 2. But damn it, it’s  entertaining and fun and who can complain about that?

Is it realistic? Hell no, no more than The Guns of Navarone or The Wild Geese was.

Are they similar? You bet.

All three films feature heroes past their prime facing outlandish, impossible odds…and winning. Sure the big bad has changed. In Navarone it was the Nazi’s and in Geese it was an African government; in each case though the bad guys were bad.

To the bone.

So are the bad guys in both The Expendables and The Expendables 2. The first film featured a villainous Eric Roberts and the second one featured Jean-Claude Van Damme as an egotistical greedy and downright nasty villain. Both men had an equally nasty cohort and a plethora of arms toting men.

Van Damme as the Vilain…

But despite the similarity in plot and the difference in directors – Sly directed the first one and Simon West directed # 2 – the film covers familiar territory and features almost all of the guys from the first film.

Conspicuous in his absence is Mickey Rourke (who says he only did the first film as a favour to Stallone anyway) and Jet Li is missing for 99% of the film – a massive disappointment as I adore Li – and Charisma Carpenter has an even smaller cameo than in the first film, but none of these things take away from the enjoyment of the actual film.

Instead we have both Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in bigger cameo roles and they both get to shoot copious amounts of ammunition and kill absolute legions of baddies. Chuck Norris shows up for the party and it just doesn’t get any better than that.

I could almost forgive Chuck for endorsing Mitt Romney (almost but not quite) and it would have been nice to see more Jet Li, but hey; we got Nan Yu to represent the Asian member of the team and a “new” member in Liam Hemsworth as the ultimate eagle-eyed sniper “Billy the kid.”

Now for the plot, did I say, plot? Do you really care? Of course you do, no matter how ropey and loose it is, plot is important. But before we go there let’s talk about the opening of the movie.

New temporary Expendable member Maggie.

Expendables 2 opens just like Expendables did, with a hostage being rescued by the guys. Everyone infiltrates a terrorist hideout that is heavily armed and looks to be pretty impregnable. Except that these are the Expendables and they can go anywhere they like.

This time the hostage is a Chinese fellow who was supposed to be protected by Trench (Schwarzenegger) who is also a hostage. Just like the first film, our heroes kill all the bad guys and release Trench and they take the Chinese chap back home. Mid-air they put Yin Yang (Li) in charge of him; he attaches the man to himself and his parachute and they leap out of the plane. Li says that he may or may not return.

Once they get home and are celebrating in their old watering hole, Billy (Hemsworth) tells boss man Barney Ross (Stallone) that at the end of the month, he is quitting and going back to his French girlfriend. Barney leaves and heads back to his plane where he finds Church (Willis) who tells him that he has not forgiven him for stealing 5 million dollars from his organization and that Barney owes him one last mission.

Barney also finds out that he has to take a woman on board for this mission, Maggie (Yu) and over his objections that is just what he does. Their mission is to retrieve a valuable object from a plane that has been shot down in hostile territory. They accomplish this but get the object stolen by Vilain (Van Damme) – villain get it – but the bad obvious joke aside, Vilain is not a joke and he kills one of the Expendables to prove a point.

With the smell of revenge thick in their nostrils the guys and Maggie go to take down Vilain.

There are enough bullets shot and cartridges expended that the lead and brass companies could retire from the weapon’s business. There is enough blood spilt to sink the Titanic and while the violence is slightly over the top (a sniper bullet can take a man’s head right off) it is not in your face; hence the rating of 15.

With everyone making fun of their own acting careers (with the possible exception of Chuck Norris because really it is hard to tell with him) the chuckles keep coming. The cast do their usual good job in their interaction with one another and the “new girl” Maggie.

For the record the “guys” are: Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Terry Crews and Randy Couture. I just thought I’d mention it, you know, in case you forgot.

Bruce and Arnie, car-pooling.

The film is a great big bundle of action-man (and action-woman) fun. The nods and the winks keep coming and the action is practically non-stop. Even though the aim of the film was to do a pastiche of the 80’s action films that made all the big names in the film famous, Sly and director Simon West have gone back even further.

Years ago, when silent films were all the newest rage, there was a cowboy star who would kiss his horse rather than kiss his leading lady (nothing strange, trust me) and Stallone does something similar at the end of The Expendable 2. Well in spirit at least.

It is not often these days that a sequel is just as good as, or better than, the original but that is this case here. Maybe the secret is in not having a too cohesive plot or not caring too much about plot; either way it works and it is pure entertainment.

Just don’t take the film seriously and you will love it.

The “Lone Wolf” aka Chuck Norris. Seriously though, how old is this guy?
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