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This Was The Last Good Jean-Claude Van Damme Movie

Throughout the late 1980s and 90s, Jean-Claude Van Damme stood as one of the biggest names in action movie history. Standing among titans such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Dolph Lundgren, Van Damme's aptitude for butt-kicking in films like "Bloodsport," "Lionheart," and "Universal Soldier" catapulted him into stardom. Unfortunately, the Belgian-born karate king's reign would not last overly long. Though the Muscles from Brussels retained his stunning reputation as one of Hollywood's all-time action hero greats, a slew of less-than-stellar films failed to keep him in the limelight beyond his heyday.

There were, of course, attempts to reverse this. Two "Universal Soldier" sequels were produced, to no great effect, and Van Damme has always managed to keep a steady line of work over the years (via IMDb). However, none of those projects made him quite as big as his early excursions into the action genre. From the outside, it almost seemed as if the Van Damme well had run dry, and that the actor had nothing left to give his audiences.

However, that statement is less true than you might think. While Van Damme's later endeavors never quite made the same cultural mark as his early work, he has made some excellent movies since then. Out of all of them, however, 2008's "JCVD" probably stands out as the last definitively good Jean-Claude Van Damme movie.

What's so great about JCVD?

While it's true that "JCVD" is far from Jean-Claude Van Damme's last successful film, it is the one that has made the most cultural impact since his peak in the '80s and '90s. Critically, the film received high praise, garnering an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as a 74% on the site's fan-rating system. In general, critics praised the film for Van Damme's performance, which goes out of its way to subvert and critique his legacy as an action star. In 2008, Time named his role the second-best movie performance of the year, underneath Heath Ledger's Joker in "The Dark Knight."

In the film, Van Damme plays a fictionalized version of himself. After a series of unfortunate failures, from the decline of his action career to losing his daughter in a custody battle, Van Damme becomes involved in a tense bank robbery and hostage negotiation for which he has been framed as the perpetrator. These events culminate in a fourth-wall-breaking monologue where Van Damme spills the beans on everything from his drug problems to his multiple marriages. This speech became one of the film's most praised moments, cementing the film as one of Van Damme's most artistically fulfilling works.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Van Damme movie without a splash of fantasy action. In the end, however, the action is just the cherry on top. The real treat is watching Van Damme do something different after so many years, and still succeed.