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JCVD gets meta in ‘Jean-Claude Van Johnson’

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Van Damme and associates face off against the bad guys.
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Two and a half stars

JEAN-CLAUDE VAN JOHNSON Season 1 available December 15 on Amazon.

In 2008, Jean-Claude Van Damme starred in the movie JCVD, playing a fictional version of himself in a story that commented on his fleeting fame, his aging physique and his struggle to be taken seriously. He got the best reviews of his career, and then went right back to making cheap straight-to-video action movies. Now Van Damme is once again playing “Jean-Claude Van Damme” in a project that comments on the nature of his celebrity, this time in a slightly more comedic way and with slightly higher production values, but with diminished effectiveness.

Amazon series Jean-Claude Van Johnson makes Van Damme into a secret agent (code-named Johnson), who’s been using his film roles as cover for actual covert missions. The early episodes focus on warmed-over showbiz satire alongside the still limber Van Damme kicking ass, poking fun at the star’s age and ego while still allowing him to be an action hero, to underwhelming results. But the six-episode season gets increasingly outlandish, eventually including time travel, doppelgangers and a machine that controls the weather. It’s not quite enough to transcend the mediocre comedy, thin characters and rote fight scenes, but at least it’s more entertaining than another assembly-line D-level action movie.

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Josh Bell

Josh Bell is the film editor for Las Vegas Weekly, where he's been writing movie and TV reviews since 2002. ...

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