Midnight Madness Blog

- 2008
- 2007

I went into the theatre last night with the thought that Jean-Claude Van Damme is this generation’s John Travolta. I left the theatre even more assured of this. It appears that Mabrouk El Mechri has done something that is difficult in execution but stunning when delivered successfully – he has taken a well known, iconic and typecast actor (albeit one with sweet moves) and completely reinvented him.

Jean-Claude, much like Travolta, made a name for himself by appearing in a seemingly endless stream of genre films that led him through the Hollywood arc of new heart-throb, mega-rich movie star and then the all-to inevitable decline into obscurity.

Similar to Quentin Tarantino with Travolta in 1994, El Mechri saw something in Jean-Claude that made him ideally suited for a “re-emergence” film – he saw soul and he saw heart. Pulp Fiction showcased a diverse Travolta, an actor with a range of emotions who has rarely looked back since. This is the Jean-Claude that was on the screen last night.

Pulp Fiction and JCVD share many other things in common as well, so much so the we consider a formula for the so-called “re-emergence” film: low-budget, minimal special effects, non-linear story, dialogue driven and of course heart and soul. It is this last ingredient that is of critical importance because in many ways it was the lack of heart and soul that lead to both actors into decline in the first place.

There was a question at the end of the Q&A last night in which El Mechri was asked that if not JCVD, who would he have chosen to “re-invent”. Steven Segal and Chuck Norris were discussed, but really, did they ever go away? A key ingredient for the “re-emergence” film is near total disappearance from all things Hollywood (I dare a director to take on the task of creating a new and improved Mark Hamill).

I think perhaps a more interesting question to consider is whom among today’s crop of “kitsch” characters in their prime, can you see as one day needing re-invention? Another interesting question to consider is whether total disappearance from Hollywood is even possible anymore? With campy reality TV now being tacked on as the inevitable end of the Hollywood arc, it seems that celebrities in decline will just continue to decline in perpetuity.