The Bouncer (2018) | Directed by Julien Leclercq
Written by Jérémie Guez, Julien Leclercq | Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sami Bouajila, Sveva Alviti
You know ’em, you love ’em; Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan…all beloved martial arts action stars. Discovered in the 80s, all of them have had interesting and varied careers, with plenty of highs and lows. There have been the duds and there have been shining moments of celluloid (and silver screen) magic. If you’re a fan of cult classics, these names ring a special bell, one with a resounding gong.
It’s interesting to note that they’ve all displayed their serious sides as well as their comedic chops, to varying degrees of success, both critically and artistically. Of the crew under discussion here, Jackie Chan is probably best known for his ability to mix fight scenes with hilarity (often at the expense of broken bones). But what about the serious side of acting? Minus the cool countenance and pithy comments, can any of them really deliver a performance without cheese?
I say yes. While Chan has had some really interesting serious performances lately (Police Story: Lockdown comes to my mind as a good example), Van Damme has been quietly displaying some really powerhouse acting. If you need proof, check out The Bouncer.
Exactly as you might imagine, The Bouncer is the rather simple story of a…bouncer…who’s trying to make ends meet while raising a young daughter by himself. Things go haywire when something terrible happens at work and he gets involved with some bad guys who aren’t going to contribute to his 401K whatsoever. They aren’t going to give him a gold watch when he retires, more likely a cold ditch for his decaying corpse.
Van Damme’s performance is subtle, with minimal facial expression other than one of immense inner pain. Seriously palpable, the lines in his face stand out in stark contrast, a reflection of having suffering and exposure to things no human being should need to see or experience.
In addition to the simplistic script, the soundtrack by Jean-Jacques Hertz and Francois Roy is sparse and quiet and the direction by Julien Leclercq personal and dark. Harkening back to classic thrillers like Three Days of the Condor and The Day of the Jackal, the pace of this movie is slow, building tension one step at a time with a sense of certain impending doom. The fight scenes are particularly noteworthy as they contain nearly zero audio.
I loved this movie and will continue to recommend it to friends that like subgenres like hitman movies. Don’t miss Van Damme’s excellent and compelling performance in this gritty thriller.