Jean Claude Van Damme Movies

JCVD Joins “Kickboxer” Movie Reboot Starring Alain Moussi

Jean Claude Van Damme as shown in Black Belt magazine.As many know by now, the 1989 martial arts movie Kickboxer — the film that helped launch the career of Jean-Claude Van Damme — is getting the reboot treatment courtesy of Radar Films.

Producer Ted Field from Radar Films announced this week, however, that Jean-Claude Van Damme himself (often referred to by fans as simply JCVD) has joined the Kickboxer cast, taking over the role of Master Chow. JCVD replaces none other than popular martial arts movie star Tony Jaa (Ong-Bak, The Protector).

The 3-D reboot of Kickboxer — starring Alain Moussi, Dave Bautista, and Georges St-Pierre (and also now JCVD) — recently started production in New Orleans, Louisiana and Thailand.

“We are so excited to have Kickboxer roll into production and to have JCVD in the role of Master Chow, passing the torch to Alain [leading] the franchise to a new generation,” said Field regarding the addition of JCVD to the cast. “Audiences better get ready for this incredible reboot. The action is going to be non-stop with never-before-seen stunts. Simply put, Kickboxer will kick ass!”

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A plethora of martial arts reportedly will be represented in the movie.

Alain Moussi is a practitioner of karate, kickboxing, aikido, goshindo, kobudo, Filipino martial arts, sambo and judo. In addition to wrestling, Dave Bautista has trained kali, muay Thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Scott Adkins has been schooled in taekwondo, kickboxing and judo. And, of course, Black Belt Hall of Fame member Georges St-Pierre has done kyokushin, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, muay Thai, boxing and wrestling.

For those who are unfamiliar with the plot of the 1989 JCVD vehicle: California-based Eric and Kurt Sloane are accomplished martial artists. When Eric wins a karate championship, a promoter lures him to Hong Kong despite his brother’s protests that the man is a crook. Kurt (played by JCVD in the original film) receives a letter from Eric and heads to Thailand to meet him. When JCVD’s character arrives, he discovers his brother is dead, and the man responsible is Tong Po. Kurt turns to his brother’s mentor to learn the secrets of kickboxing so he can exact revenge.

Check out this trailer from the 1989 Kickboxer to refresh your memory and see classic JCVD martial arts moves:

Alain Moussi will take over the role originally played by JCVD in 1989's Kickboxer.

Alain Moussi will play Kurt Sloane in the upcoming reboot of Kickboxer, taking on the role originally portrayed by Jean-Claude Van Damme in the 1989 martial arts movie. (Photo by Laurence Labat)

“[The reboot of] Kickboxer will display a style of acrobatic, rapid-fire martial arts action that Scott Adkins is increasingly becoming synonymous with,” said Brian O’Shea, CEO of The Exchange, an international sales and finance company and one of the movie’s executive producers. “[The movie] has compiled a talented cast to push the boundaries of the martial arts.”

Alain Moussi will portray Kurt Sloane, the martial artist JCVD played in the first film. Born in Libreville, Gabon, Africa, Alain Moussi is a Canada-based actor and martial artist who holds several black belts. The 33-year-old has worked in numerous movies, including X-Men: Days of Future Past, Pacific Rim and White House Down.

The evil Tong Po will be played by Dave Bautista, a former pro wrestler with the WWE who was featured in Guardians of the Galaxy.

The director for the Kickboxer reboot starring Alain Moussi, JCVD, Scott Adkins, Dave Baustista and Georges St-Pierre will be Stephen Fung, who helmed Tai Chi Zero and Tai Chi Hero, among other titles.

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Vintage Jean-Claude Van Damme Movies | Universal Soldier: Regeneration

Jean-Claude Van Damme + Dolph Lundgren + a Universal Soldier sequel = ’nuff said. That’s right. The 1990s sci-fi franchise is back with its two original European stars. Van Damme and Lundgren co-headline Universal Soldier: Regeneration, the latest installment about troops resurrected as killer cyborgs called UniSols. It should be on DVD and Blu-ray shelves by the time you read this.

Surprisingly, Universal Soldier: Regeneration is not the cheesefest I thought it would be. Rather, it’s good entertainment, largely because of two main ingredients: Van Damme and Lundgren.

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Since the turn of the millennium, the “Muscles from Brussels” and Sweden’s most famous karateka have made a number of low-budget DVDs. Rather than go the way of Clint Eastwood, the aging action icon who transformed himself into an Oscar-winning director, Van Damme and Lundgren have marched in the boot prints of Sylvester Stallone, who’s received mixed reviews for making unnecessary Rambo and Rocky sequels.

The good news: Universal Soldiers: Regeneration isn’t a shameless cash cow or an exploitative excuse to relive past glories. It’s an organic extension of the Universal Soldier mythos and a reality check for its stars—particularly Van Damme, whose aging status is incorporated into the script. His Luc Deveraux character is now decommissioned, blurred by amnesia and stricken by post-traumatic stress disorder.

He’s unexpectedly thrown back into service when a next-generation UniSol (played by Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Andrei Arlovski) is manipulated by Chechen terrorists to kidnap the Russian president’s children and threaten a second nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. Worse yet, a terrorist scientist clones Luc’s arch nemesis, Sgt. Andrew Scott (Lundgren).

While Universal Soldier: Regeneration gunplay is rather rudimentary—with director John Hyams and his cinematographer/father Peter Hyams (director of Van Damme’s Timecop and Sudden Death) imitating the jarring style from the Bourne movies—the hand-to-hand fight scenes are worth watching. Stunt coordinators Charlie Picerni and Borislav Iliev craft a vicious set piece for Van Damme and Lundgren’s standoff. Gone are the impractical helicopter kicks and flashy fisticuffs. Instead, the two old-school UniSols plow into each other like grizzly bears, smashing through windows and walls. The choreography isn’t innovative, but its visceral nature harkens to the grand brutality of 1980s action movies.

The most pleasant surprise is Arlovski, who has top billing, believe it or not. The “Pit Bull’s” talents—kickboxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling—give the franchise a fresh take without going overboard with the mixed-martial arts techniques.

Fortunately, there’s virtually no mention of the events that took place in 1999’s repugnant Universal Solider: The Return or in the Van Damme-less, noncanonical sequels Universal Solider II and Universal Solider III. That’s a wise move, considering that Universal Soldier: Regeneration is far better than those atrocious middle chapters.

I would have rated Universal Soldier: Regeneration higher, but the second act drags, mostly because the screenplay never focuses on any one character. Arlovski has a lot of scenes, but he’s not the main character. Van Damme should have been the emotional core of the story, but his character development is stunted. And Lundgren gives a strong performance, but his work amounts to only a handful of scenes.

Still, Universal Soldier: Regeneration quenches my nostalgic blood lust for 1990s action and violence.

(Patrick Vuong is a freelance journalist, screenwriter and martial artist based in Orange County, California.)

Vintage Jean-Claude Van Damme Movies: The Shepherd

I loved the 1980s. The decade produced some of history’s best “bad” martial arts movies—genre flicks that are critically panned but commercially loved. Think Steven Seagal’s Above the Law, Michael Dudikoff’s American Ninja and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Bloodsport. Looking back, I find these movies so amazingly cheesy that I’m surprised Kraft Foods hasn’t started packaging them with its macaroni. But I loved them when I was a kid, and I still get a kick out of watching them today.

So I was keen on viewing Jean-Claude Van Damme’s The Shepherd: Border Patrol, the latest project from one of our biggest ’80s screen heroes. Released straight to DVD by Sony Pictures, it’s definitely a throwback to Jean-Claude Van Damme’s martial arts movies with its paper-thin plot and emphasis on action. But it has modern twists, incorporating issues like illegal immigration, drug smuggling and the consequences of Middle East violence on American soldiers.

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Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Jack Robideaux, a former New Orleans cop who becomes a Border Patrol agent to stop former Special Forces soldiers from smuggling Mexican drugs into the United States. This simple yet potent premise sounds like the perfect blueprint to craft the kind of powerful Van Damme movie not seen in the past 20 years.

Unfortunately, rather than using the heart-wrenching social aspects and incorporating them into an action-packed thriller, The Shepherd glosses over the potential substance and aims for style. Too bad that style is the cinematic equivalent of worn jeans and a T-shirt instead of an Armani suit. With a budget that was reportedly $13 million, it should have been a lot more visually impressive.

Fortunately, director Isaac Florentine, who has an extensive karate background and spent years helming Power Ranger episodes, effectively captures J.J. Perry’s progressive fight choreography, which is a mix of aerial kicks, flashy grappling and realistic street fighting. Together, they stage a short but thrilling set piece that’s the best reason to see The Shepherd: a showdown between the “Muscles from Brussels” and his heir-apparent, Scott Adkins (Undisputed II). Their battle is a highlight reel of spinning and jumping kicks, with Van Damme representing the balletic old-school techniques and Adkins showing off the new extreme style of acrobatic footwork.

Unfortunately, the gunplay looks fake, the screenplay is predictable and the characters practice very little common sense. For example, Jean-Claude Van Damme chases the drug smugglers into Mexico without backup and gets captured. Then his boss sneaks south of the border without any backup to try to save him. Guess what? She gets captured, too.

So is The Shepherd a really good “bad” martial arts movie or just plain bad? Neither, actually. Instead, it straddles the fence, sitting comfortably in average territory—which is a shame because Jean-Claude Van Damme’s 2001 Replicant shows that he’s capable of delivering classic ’80s “Van Dammage” even as he approaches the half-century mark.

(Patrick Vuong is a journalist, screenwriter and martial artist based in Orange County, California.)

Jean-Claude Van Damme on Bloodsport 2, JCVD and The Eagle Path

The universally positive response to JCVD has given Jean-Claude Van Damme a career boost. While fans have long championed the man and his movies, only now do the mainstream media seem willing to acknowledge his appeal. In this Black Belt exclusive, the comeback kid talks about his latest films and what he has planned for the future.

Black Belt: Were you surprised by how well JCVD has been received?

Jeane-Claude Van Damme: It’s been refreshing and inspiring to see [that] the film is getting such great feedback and that people have taken it to heart. (laughing) It’s funny as for a long time I didn’t think we would make the movie. The first time the project was discussed was after I’d been interviewed for a documentary a few years ago. The director had come up with an idea for a movie about me being caught up in the middle of something, but it never went any further. The project came up a few more times, and then I met this young guy named Mabrouk El Mechri, and he’d expressed his interest in doing such a project to show people a different Jean-Claude Van Damme. He told me that he thought I was a good actor and that he wanted to do something very different. Mabrouk is a very charismatic, very intelligent guy—he really sold me on the idea of the film, and then I didn’t hear from him for some time.

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I didn’t know that Mabrouk was going through a hard time. When I spoke to him again, I told him how disappointed I was that he’d made this big speech and sounded like a man of his word and then nothing had happened. He apologized and asked me to give him 15 days to put something together, a rough screenplay to show me. I said he should come and see me when he had something real to show me.

It was maybe 10 days later [when] he traveled by train to Belgium and came to my house. He sat down in front of me like a little kid and proceeded to tell me the whole film, not just a rough outline but pretty much the entire film with all the dialogue, situations and characters. I knew then that Mabrouk was the right man for the job.

I have never had such a positive experience making a movie. Every day when I came on the set, he would be happy and enthusiastic and welcoming. One day, I was having problems with a scene—something kept going wrong, and I was having to repeat the same things again and again—and I was getting frustrated. Mabrouk just came over and put his arm around me and told me not to worry, that we should stop shooting for the day and come back tomorrow. He wasn’t upset or worried. He felt that if we weren’t going to get it right, we shouldn’t be killing ourselves to keep doing it; we should step back and try again the next day. And we did. He was able to rework the schedule and shoot what was needed. His attitude helped me give the film everything I could. He was the writer and director, but it was a collaborative way of filmmaking. He’s a genuinely talented director.

When I first saw the film, I was disturbed. It wasn’t exactly what I thought we’d been doing; I hadn’t realized how raw it was. I wasn’t sure how people were going to react to it. I wondered if the fans of my earlier films—who want to see me kick ass—might not accept me like this. But it struck a chord with a lot of people. The response has been very good, and I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about my acting.

Black Belt: For your most recent project, The Eagle Path, you served as producer, writer, lead actor and director. What can you tell us about the film?

Jeane-Claude Van Damme: I just finished the editing. It’s a project I’ve been wanting to do for several years. I’ve been rolling the idea around for a long time, and I just kept coming back to it. You saw the first cut—maybe you should tell me what you thought of the film.

(OK, here goes. The Eagle Path, formerly known as Full Love, tells the story of a disillusioned, dysfunctional former soldier named Frenchy (Van Damme), who is working as a taxi driver in an unnamed Southeast Asian country. His life is turned upside down when he meets Sofia (Claudia Bassols), a beautiful woman working as a “companion” in an exclusive club. Frenchy sets