Last week I programmed a hypothetical 24-hour marathon of Kurt Russell movies, because he's the best person who ever lived. It was a fun exercise and it got me thinking: are there other actors whose work I would be willing to watch for 24 hours straight? Yes. JCVD.
I love Van Damme. While Schwarzenegger may always be my favorite of the legendary action stars, JCVD isn't far behind. He actually has several things in common with Arnold: his athleticism, his self-deprecating sense of humor, his penchant for sci-fi. Though he had some rough spots in the late '90s and early 2000s, I love almost every period of Van Damme's career. He's done his most interesting work in the last 10 years, impressing more with his performances than with his fight scenes.
Because of the sameness of his filmography, I had some concerns about trying to put together a full 24 hours of Van Damme movies. After all, his body of work isn't as varied as Kurt Russell's. But after putting this list together, I realized I could easily sit through this lineup. The challenge isn't having to watch all of these in a row; the challenge is that there enough hours to watch all the stuff I wanted to include. I did my best. If your favorite is left off, that's ok. You can plan your own marathon.
10 a.m. - Double Impact (1991, dir. Sheldon Lettich)
Noon - No Retreat, No Surrender (1986, dir. Corey Yuen)
1:45 p.m. - Cyborg (1989, dir. Albert Pyun)
Masters of the Universe sequel and a Spider-Man movie. When those movies died, director Albert Pyun threw together Cyborg to make use of the sets as well as some of the cast and production. The resulting film was taken away from Pyun and recut by Van Damme to make it more action-heavy, and though I enjoy Pyun's cut (called Slinger) I'm still a big fan of the version that made it to theaters. It has a tendency to be slow and features surprisingly little dialogue, but the post-apocalyptic vibe is cool as is the film's approach to science fiction as a western. Not for everyone, but I love it.
3:15 p.m. - Sudden Death (1995, dir. Peter Hyams)
Die Hard rip-offs and the best hockey-themed action movie ever made. He beats up a mascot. He puts on a uniform and goes out on the ice. He just wants his kids back. Bad guys get helicopters dropped on them. Powers Boothe is in it. After the somewhat draggy pace of Cyborg, this is exactly the kick in the dick we'll need.
5:15 p.m. - Wake of Death (2004, dir. Phillipe Martinez)
7 p.m. - Nowhere to Run (1993, dir. Robert Harmon)
9 p.m. - The Expendables 2 (2012, dir. Simon West)
original film; in others, it's a step down. The very best thing about it is the villain turn by JCVD (he's even named Jean Vilain!), who steals the movie from everyone else and is clearly having the time of his life on screen. He's so good he makes the whole film better. I had high hopes that this role would lead to a big-screen Van Damme renaissance, but it was not meant to be. Once I got over my initial disappointment over Expendables 2, I have learned to embrace the parts of it that are fun. Nothing about it is as much fun as Jean Vilain.
11 p.m. - Universal Soldier (1992, dir. Roland Emmerich)
Independence Day and Godzilla '98) features much of their trademark stupidity but is told on a much smaller scale, making it leaner and more grounded. It's fun in an early '90s sci-fi/action way. Plus, it has one of my favorite Van Damme line deliveries of all time: "I just want to eat."
1 a.m. - Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2010, dir. Jon Hyams)
2:45 a.m. Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012, dir. Jon Hyams)
4:45 a.m. - Double Team (1997, dir. Tsui Hark)
6:30 a.m. - JCVD (2008, dir. Mabrouk El Mechri)
8:15 a.m. - Hard Target (1993, dir. John Woo)