Of the two 1994 films Jean-Claude Van Damme starred in, one of them seemed destined to be a huge franchise-inspiring hit: The adaptation of the Street Fighter II video game that fans had been clamoring for. However, it was Van Damme’s other film, the Sam Raimi-produced Timecop, that edged it out of the ring both critically and financially. Thanks to this film, the “Muscles from Brussels” was garnering praise for his acting while proving his name was enough of a draw for moviegoers.
So what happened?
Instead of rising with this success and branching out to other projects, Van Damme rode a steady stream of generic action movies all the way back down to semi-obscurity, just as if he’d never helped studios pull in $200 million in one year. But it’s not like Van Damme isn’t aware of his fall from grace: He reveled in his lackluster legacy by playing himself in this year’s French film JCVD, a semi-serious biopic dedicated to spreading one simple message — it’s not easy being Jean-Claude. In the English-subtitled trailer, you get a glimpse of the actor’s life as he balances fame and obscurity, faces a child custody dispute, and confronts financial hardship.
Let’s hope that the sight of a more humane Van Damme jump-starts his career and lets him time-travel back to the unlimited possibilities of 1994. Here’s a good sign: the new Street Fighter film that’s slated for 2009 will have to proceed without him. Van Damme turned down a role, citing his need to choose films a little more carefully.