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Review: The Bouncer (2019)

Updated: Feb 20, 2019

The Bouncer is Jean-Claude Van Damme’s newest movie that I’ve been wanting to see since it’s release date back in September of 2018. It turns out, that release date was only for film festivals in the U.S., and I had to wait another four months until it was available to stream here! Obviously, I was heartbroken, as anybody would be when they find out they have to wait four months to see the newest movie from the greatest actor of all time. The good news is, The Bouncer was totally worth the wait.

Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Lukas, a father struggling to raise his 8 year old daughter while making ends meet financially. Lukas works as a bouncer in a nightclub until he accidentally (and justifiably, I might add) kills a man who is getting violent in the club. Lukas is fired, but he gets a new job working at a fancy gentleman’s club which is owned by a shady crime boss. A police detective approaches Lukas and gives him two options. He can either earn his way into the criminal organization to gather information on the club’s owner, or the police will skew the evidence of the nightclub killing, put him in prison, and take his daughter from him. His decision is obvious, and he infiltrates the gang which puts him and his daughter in danger.

That description might sound like a typical JCVD action movie, but this is far from that. While there are some scenes of action, it’s more of a dramatic thriller than an action movie. This is a very character driven movie, and Jean-Claude Van Damme is asked to carry the movie in a way that is familiar, as this is a very physical role, while at the same time being completely different than anything he’s done before, as much of the movie hinges on his acting and portraying the character with minimal dialogue.

Van Damme is able to pull this off by delivering one of the best performances of his career. Lukas is a quiet character who doesn’t talk very much, but Van Damme is able to make him a fully fleshed out character. Obviously, the physicality of the character and his profession is the easy part. Based on years of films and his iconic reputation, we all know Van Damme is a badass, so we instantly believe that aspect of the character. It’s the subtlety and nuances that he brings to Lukas that surprised me.

At age 58, JCVD still has it!

Van Damme shows a soft and vulnerable side that we haven’t had a chance to see much during his career. Van Damme expertly balances this character’s world weariness with his genuine care for his daughter, and underneath it all is an anger he is struggling to control. The result is one of the more interesting and quietly captivating characters of Van Damme’s career. Regardless of one’s feelings towards him, I think anybody that watches this will have to commend him for his acting in this role.

Lukas' daughter keeps him from being consumed by the world he navigates.

I did say The Bouncer is more of a dramatic thriller than an action movie, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without some very good action scenes. The standout is Lukas’ job audition, in which he is forced to participate in a last man standing brawl with about ten other men. The fight is filmed very well, and it showcases Van Damme perfectly. This is a more realistic and grounded fight than a typical JCVD fight scene (unfortunately that means no roundhouse kicks), filmed in a handheld style, and shown with no background music, which really puts the viewer in the fight with him. He isn’t a flashy fighter, but more of a boxer or brawler. He takes his share of hits and only comes out on top because of his desperation and determination. It’s a great fight that is made even better by JCVD.

Besides that fight, there was a pretty good car chase and a very thrilling, and brilliantly filmed abduction scene. Van Damme is forced to enter a heavily guarded house to abduct a cocaine cook. The entire scene is filmed in one take, and is aided by ominous music. It’s easily one of the most thrilling scenes of the movie and it had me on the edge of my seat.

My biggest complaint is that this is an incredibly somber movie. It’s tone is overly serious, the characters are all either stoic or melancholic, the color pallete is full of washed out cool colors, and the combination makes for a movie that just isn’t very fun. Those things aren’t inherently negative when it comes to movie making, but The Bouncer does drag at times because of its unwavering seriousness. I’m not saying this movie needed to have a more positive vibe, but I do wish it had a few more thrilling moments to get my heart racing and keep me engaged with the story.

Van Damme gives a fantastic performance, but the movie would have benefited from a shot of energy.

Overall, The Bouncer will not go down as one of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s best movies, or even one of his most enjoyable. It is, however, a movie that shows a new side of Van Damme’s abilities, a worthy addition to his filmography, and one of his best acting performances of his career. If you’re a fan of his, you will be pleased with this one, so I would say you should definitely give it a watch. If you aren’t a Van Damme fan (or you are hesitant to believe me that he actually can act), I still urge you to give this a shot. At the very least, you’ll get to watch a well made, gritty thriller,and I have a feeling that you will come away with an appreciation for Van Damme’s efforts as a little bonus. If you do decide to watch it, I would love to hear your opinions on it, so hit up the comment section!

RATING: 6.5 out of 10

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