Back in the 80s and 90s Van Damme was a major player in the action movie business.
Okay, I admit that he’s not the greatest actor, and most of his movies are a real cheese-fest. Somehow they have to work into the plot why his character has a Belgian accent because JCVD doesn’t and can’t do accents. But you have to realise that he wrote some of his films, choreographed his fights, he can kick ass and looks good doing it!
At the age of 15, Van Damme started his karate career in Belgium. From 1976 to 1980, Van Damme compiled a record of 44 victories and 4 defeats in tournament and non-tournament semi-contact matches. From 1977 to 1982, Van Damme compiled a record of 18 victories (18 knockouts) and 1 defeat.
He made his first film appearance at the age of 18 in an uncredited role in the Woman Between Wolf and Dog (1979). When Van Damme moved to the US one of his first roles was working on a film as an extra in the hip hop dance film Breakin’ (1984). Around that time he developed a friendship with action martial art movie star Chuck Norris. They started sparring together, and Van Damme started to work as a bouncer at a bar named Woody’s Wharf, owned by Norris. Also in 1984, he worked in the stunt team in the Norris action film Missing in Action.
The first sizable role for Van Damme was playing the bad guy in No Retreat, No Surrender (1986) in. A year later in 1987 he was originally going to play the part of the Predator, but was replaced by Kevin Peter Hall.
People think he is just a washed up actor and only makes straight to DVD movies now, but there is a reason for that and it was all unfortunately down to JCVD’s arrogance. You see in the mid 90s Van-Damme was at the top of his game and after he made Street Fighter he was offered lots of work but he saw how much actors like Jim Carey were getting paid. He demanded the same or higher and it seriously pissed a lot of studios off and he pretty much got himself blacklisted in Hollywood.
Films to Watch Again
Based on an unverified story of martial artist Frank Dux. A US Army deserter who goes to honour his mentor Tanaka by taking the place of his deceased son Shingo in the illegal martial-arts tournament Kumite in Hong Kong.
This is the first film I saw Van Damme in and it was at the time he was getting really famous around about 1991. The film is about Kurt Sloane who travels with his US Kickboxing Champion brother Eric to Bangkok to compete in the Thai championship. Eric gets seriously thrashed in the fight against Tong Po and becomes paralyzed. Kurt now vows revenge and trains the traditional way to beat the evil Tong Po.It’s like a mashup of Karate Kid and Rocky IV. Of course as a young kid I thought it was amazing. Who can forget that cheesy AF dance scene!
Lionheart (AWOL in the UK) (1990)
Similar to Bloodsport JCVD Plays a paratrooper in the French Foreign Legion who goes AWOL when he finds out his brother has been murdered. He fights in the underground pit fighting league to help make some money for his niece and late brothers widow.
This was the second time Michel Qissi (A good friend to JCVD) played a villain in a Van Damme film, the first being notably as Tong Po in Kickboxer with heavy prosthetics to make him look Thai!
Double Impact (1991)
In this film Van- Damme is in the dual role of Alex and Chad Wagner, estranged twin brothers fighting to avenge the deaths of their parents. They used special effects to show both brothers on screen at once. At the time it was pretty state of the art.
Universal Soldier (1992)
Van Damme plays a dead soldier from the Vietnam war brought back to life in the 90s as an un-killable fighting machine. Who knows where he’s been for the last 20 years!
Nowhere To Run (1993)
This is probably the film that JCVD fights the least in and it’s a shame that he doesn’t show off his martial art skills more. Van Damme is an escaped convict who helps out a single mother and her kids when some unscrupulous property developers try to take her farm.
Hard Target (1993)
I featured this movie in a previous post because I think it’s a classic 90s no brainer movie. Van Damme plays Chance Boudreaux, a sailor who is skilled in martial arts (obviously). He is employed to guard Natasha Binder (Yancy Butler) while she is trying to track down her father, an itinerant Vietnam veteran living in New Orleans. They soon uncover a sinister group of wealthy men who like to hunt homeless people for sport, paying them $10,000 if they can survive a crosstown journey to the river.
Finally, in this mid 90s sci-fi blockbuster JCVD plays a Timecop in a world where time-travel exists. He travels through time stopping assholes from changing history including a shady congressman. I really like the concept for this film and am surprised it hasn’t been remade or turned into a modern Netflix series.
Give a ‘Van Damme’ and give him another chance!