Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Assessing The Van Dammage

Van Damme and the Action Stars:

Van Damme image via Mubi.com

We’re late enough into the history of the modern action movie that it's possible to establish lineage—Statham can be traced back to fellow balding wise-ass Willis, and even Van Damme has produced some heirs, like Scott Adkins, the English mixed-martial-artist with Yevgeni Bauer-ian eyes—and late enough into Van Damme’s career to see that there aren’t many clear lineages leading to him, except maybe Bruce Lee. What Van Damme takes from Lee is a certain parading of finesse (and in that sense he’s more of a Hong Kong-style acrobat than an American-style action-movie tough guy, his signature kicks and splits taking the place of catchphrases), but he builds on that by extending the same self-driven precision to a vast catalogue of ordinary movements: crawls, slouches, shudders, pratfalls, shrugs. Equally athletic and quotidian—in short: a total physical perfomer.
I think it's entirely possible this entire exercise was overwrought. Possibly an artifact of JCVD pomo credentials?  And yet, there is something sad, clownish, and operatic about the acting style of the Muscles from Brussels.
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