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Volume 1 Issue 8 - 50 Cups Of Coffee And You Know It's On
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Fists Of Fury
His Name Is Pants And He's A Van Damme-aholic

I have a problem. And for someone who is considered to be a staff writer for this rag, it only polarizes how awful this problem is. I am hooked on seeing Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. Let me put the problem in perspective for you: I saw "Double Team" in the theatre. Remember that movie? Dennis "Look at Me" Rodman and Mickey "What the Hell Happened to My Face?!?" Rourke were in it.

I paid $8 to see it.

While my tastes in films run slightly to the left of mainstream, I have never been so high-and-mighty as to admit that I like bad movies. Not all movies are intended to stir emotions or raise inner questions, what else would explain the continued career of Steven Seagal. [NOTE TO EDITOR: perhaps we should write an open letter to Mr. Seagal, apparently and inexplicably still riding his own coattails from the first "Under Siege" and instruct that kung-fu/action man to mix in a salad ever once in a while in lieu of the little known East Asian diet consisting of nothing but bacon.] Some movies are purely meant to entertain and nothing else.

I can't explain why I have to see the movies, but I can say that I came down with the early symptoms of this affliction in August, 1993. While working on a made-for-TV movie being shot in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, I took one of my days off (it was a six-day work week) and slammed down a triple espresso before watching John Woo's "Hard Target". I had writen a paper in college and in one section, I wrote about John Woo's "The Killer" and how its American release was being rated NC-17 for its violent content. Needless to say, finding a John Woo movie on video in the vast Syracuse metropolitan area was next to impossible, and Richmond is, well, Richmond. Let's just add that Daniel Neiman, the critic for the Richmond Times-Dispatch thought that "I Love Trouble" was worthy of more stars than "Forrest Gump" and while I have no deep-seeded love for the Hanks movie, I can say that it certainly was better than that Roberts/Nolte vehicle (at least the 10 minutes I sat through before I had to turn to see what was on the Home & Garden channel instead).

Okay...so what I am saying is Richmond is not a bastion of fine cinema. Where was I? Oh, yeah, so on my one day off, I pound the triple expresso and watch some of the more macnificent carnage that I had seen. But that is sandwiched around Yancy Butler staring with those alluring-yet-creeping eyes and the thespian skills of Sir Laurence Van-Damme. The following weekend, I went to see it again with my friend Lauren who had already been inflicted with the disease and had been jonsing to see "Hard Target". So, I had seen a Van Damme movie twice in one week. By this point, family and friends could only pray for a speedy recovery.

At first, I thought that I didn't need to see another Van Damme movie. I'm strong. I can resist. But there are forces working against me. I am not sure if Van Damme's agent just knew who to get laid or if the Belgian government had a deal signed in blood with Ted Turner. All I know that "Bloodsport" is second only to the original "Beastmaster" for the sheer number of showings in the fabulous TBS schedule.

I was drawn to the sheer lack of acting ability. I'm not talking about his inability to convey emotion, that's a given. I'm talking about how forced and stilted the dialogue is. Sure, English is not his first language, but apparently he couldn't walk and speak English at the same time. Hell, he couldn't even blink and speak English at the same time. I was hooked. It's like watching a car wreck unfold...it's painful but I am completely unable to look away. Granted, he has gotten better since the days he portrayed Frank Dux but not by much. The range of his acting ability now is that he can tilt his head when talking.

After I saw a few Van Damme movies, I began to notice an interesting similarity in his movies. In a majority of his movies, there will inevitbaly be some sort of on-screen explanation as to why he has an accent. The stock answers are usually as follows:

[1] he grew up in Louisianna and it's really more of a Cajun accent (check out "Hard Target" for Wilford Blimley as Jean-Claude's booze-makin', bow-shootin', French-speakin' Cajun uncle),

[2] he has a twin brother and they were raised separately by French-speaking parents until they died and he was raised by English-speaking guardians (used twice in Van Damme films),

[3] he is of French decent but learned English

[4] he is slightly retarded or deaf or was hit on the head or something and hence his peculiar accent.

Earlier in his career, JC movies usually had a tag-line incorporating "DAMME" with fairly laughable results. Still, I felt compelled to see a movie which slapped the words "TOO DAMN TOUGH!" on the screen. Although, I'm sure that "VAN DAMME...THANK YOU, MA'AM!" has David Bowie spinning in his grave. Today, it's difficult to imagine that epics like "Lionheart" would even make it to the theater, hence why a couple of JC's latest offerings have gone straight to video. I must admit that although I have seen my share of Belgium's finest actor, even I would never stoop so low as to go and rent "Legionnaire".

But lest you think that I am the only person with some genetic deficiency, there are others that consider themselves among the "Van Damned". Respected lawyer Stephanie Johnson, Esq., cites "the butt and our need for flank" as her two primary reasons for rushing out to "Universal Soldier 2" this past summer. Although, she does admit that, "One must also enjoy losing oneself in the bad acting, bad writing, bad casting, bad costuming, good special effects and great fight choreography. I will continue to ruminate." And don't be surprised if you are ever in an East Coast movie theater hearing the chants of "JC! JC! JC!" as Lauren Hass is wanton to do. Lauren, an executive director of a non-profit organization in Washinton, D.C., has to see Van Damme films "for health reasons like scurvy and vitamin C." And she goes as far as citing the Joe Esterhaus penned "Nowhere to Run", JC's lone entry in the drama genre, as her favorite simply because he has to rely on his actiing skills as he shares screentime with thespians Rosanna Arquette and Kirin Caulkin.

I can safely state for the record that I am a refugee of the Van Damned. I spent too long among those inflicted to accepted back into normal society, yet I cannot go back because it means that I will have to pay $9 to "The Return of the Universal Soldier". In the meantime, Gentle Reader, you can do your part in helping me and hundreds of others like me. The next time you see someone in the video store lingering over that "Knock-Off" DVD with Paul Sorvino/Rob Schnider commentary, smack it our of the hands and set it on fire. Call it tough love.

--Mr. P.


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