A Gritty Jean-Claude Van Damme Movie Is Topping The Charts On Netflix

By Michileen Martin | 24 hours ago

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Jean-Claude Van Damme is kicking Kate Winslet in the face! Well, no, not really — let’s clarify. JCVD’s 2019 action crime drama We Die Young began streaming on Netflix on June 1, and it’s kickboxed its way into the top 10 movies streamed in the US. Right now, it’s doing a classic Van Damme stretch in the #4 spot; sandwiched between 2011’s Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol at #3 and the Oscar Magnet Titanic at #5.

In We Die Young, Jean-Claude Van Damme isn’t the cartoonishly bold martial arts master fans of his 1980’s action fare might be used to. Van Damme plays Daniel, a veteran of the Afghanistan War who suffers from PTSD. He’s also voiceless, having been hit in the throat with shrapnel during the war. Availing himself of the services of the young drug dealer Lucas (Elijah Rodriguez) to help ease his symptoms, Daniel ends up coming into conflict with the dangerous gang MS-13 when Lucas and his younger brother Miguel (Nicholas Sean Johnny) try to escape the gang’s influence.

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Jean-Claude Van Damme and Nicholas Sean Johnny in We Die Young (2019)

While Lucas starts off as a loyal member of the gang, he’s insistent that his younger brother have nothing to do with with MS-13. After he receives orders to make a delivery outside the gang’s territory, he learns it’s a ruse to distract him as the gang initiates his younger brother. When he tries to run, the ambitious Jester (Charlie MacGechan) uses it as an excuse to pursue him, in hopes of getting closer to wearing MS-13’s crown. That’s when Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Daniel gets involved. The veteran is testing a car he just worked on when he runs into the fleeing Lucas and Miguel.

We Die Young‘s current Netflix success is another in a long line of examples of streaming services opening the doors to redemption for failed films. With only a limited theatrical release outside the US, We Die Young went straight to video in North America, and its lack of profits isn’t made up for with accolades. While Jean-Claude Van Damme is clearly not the most critically hailed thespian in the world, even compared to the critical responses to his other films, the reaction to We Die Young was dismal. It has a 20% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, matched with a 39% audience score.

However, in spite of never being a critical darling, Jean-Claude Van Damme isn’t the guy the reviewers blame for We Die Young‘s failures. Most critics credit JCVD and David CastaƱeda (The Umbrella Academy) — who plays the MS-13 head Rincon — with standout performances. The fault, critics like RogerEbert.com‘s Simon Abrams say, is with co-writer/director Lior Geller, who Abrams writes relies heavily on “racial stereotypes and gangster movie cliches.” One of Abrams’ complaints is actually that there wasn’t more of Van Damme in the film.

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Jean-Claude Van Damme in We Die Young (2019)

Love it or hate it, We Die Young is destined to be one of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s final action films. In February came the news that the Belgian actor’s final action film will be What’s My Name, directed by Jeremy Zag (Miraculous Ladybug). The film has the weird premise of JCVD playing a fictional version of himself, but after suffering amnesia due to a car accident. The most wonderfully insane thing about it is that Van Damme will have to once again defeat all of his old action film nemeses before the end.

With meta projects like Nicolas Cage’s The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and Pete Davidson‘s upcoming series Bupkis, it may seem like Jean-Claude Van Damme is just jumping on a self-referential movie bandwagon with What’s My Name, but he was actually doing it before Cage or Davidson. In 2016 his series Jean-Claude Van Johnson premiered on Amazon Prime, with JCVD playing a fictional version of himself who is actually a secret agent; his Hollywood career proves to be a cover for his clandestine heroics. Sadly, the series was canceled after only one season.

If you want to judge We Die Young for yourself, it’s streaming right now on Netflix. Barring that, you’ll be able to hear Jean-Claude Van Damme in less than a month. He’ll be voicing the subtly named Jean Clawed in July’s Minions: The Rise of Gru.