THE BOUNCER (2018)
Directed by Julien Leclercq
Available on DVD and Blu-Ray
Jean-Claude van Damme plays Lucas; a father by day and nightclub bouncer by night. After an accidental fatal altercation with a drunken patron, Lukas find himself desperate for work elsewhere and finds himself literally fighting for a job as a bouncer at a strip club. When the police eventually track him down following the death at the nightclub, he’s given an ultimatum: help the police by gaining evidence on his new boss or serve the sentence for homicide. With his new boss Jan Dekkers supposedly into some shady business, Lukas has to gain the trust of his new employer whilst dishing the dirt for the authorities. As he gets ever deeper into the job, he finds himself putting the lives of himself and others on the line.
When I first saw the DVD cover of THE BOUNCER, it didn’t inspire me much. I thought it’d be one of those half-arsed attempts at a thriller with “daddy” at the forefront but I was pleasantly surprised by the gritty thriller put in front of me. JCVD thrives as the worn-down but not worn-out father-of-one who’s struggling to make ends meet and often depends on the patience of the church-run school his daughter Sarah attends as he scrapes funds together for her tutelage. We gain a bit of a backstory as to how Lukas found himself in this position and you can’t help but feel for the guy, especially when he finds himself on the wrong side of the law purely by stopping a waitress from being attacked. With Lukas fighting an uphill battle, it makes sense that he find another avenue of work that is more low-key; not out of choice but out of necessity. You can see the strain on his face as he does whatever he can to keep his 8 year old daughter Sarah safe but at the same time is forced to do some dangerous things in order to keep his boss sweet and the police even sweeter.
JCVD perfectly captures the downtrodden Lukas as he plays both sides. He looks exhausted but just keeps on going, though really shines when he needs to, such as when he must resort to his bodyguard instincts. To look at him, you wouldn’t think that this hoodie-wearing 50-something would be up for going into a house full of armed men on his own to retrieve someone, yet he does. Lukas’ quiet demeanour covers his survival skills quite well but I think we all know that with JCVD in the role, Lukas can more than handle himself. In comparison to other films though, JCVD keeps the action quite low-key, even in the thrilling car battle sequence.
Understated is probably the best term to be used for THE BOUNCER and this is helped by supporting roles from Sveva Alviti as Lisa and Sam Louwyck as strip club boss Dekkers. Young Alice Verset also puts in a fine performance as Sarah, with her and JCVD offering some sweet daughter-father moments which display just what Lukas is ultimately fighting for.
Preferring to tow the line of realism than that of fantastical action works to THE BOUNCER‘s great advantage and is the first thriller that I’ve seen for a while that has made me genuinely believe in the struggle of its characters. That’s not say there aren’t any weak links in the movie, on the contrary, but overall the film seems to deliver and is unapologetic in how its story plays out.
JCVD proves he’s still get the moves but also the acting chops too. I was never in doubt of his comedy skill but here we see a serious dramatic side to the action star that we very rarely see.