The Muscles from Brussels turns Baddie-Who's-The-Daddy in The Expendables 2. In a rare bad guy turn, Jean-Claude Van Damme plays mercenary Jean Vilain and offers a welcome reminder of his ass-kicking capabilities. From humble beginnings as 'Gay Karate Man' in 1985's Monaco Forever, Van Damme has carved a niche for himself, using only raw determination, martial artistry and Spandex along the way. To mark the occasion, here's our celebration his life and work.
THE BOLO BEAT-DOWN!
As Franck Dux in Bloodsport, Van Damme successfully negotiates a host of heavy-hitting opponents, as well as the US military and Leah Ayres' big-hearted, big-haired reporter to reach the final of the Kumite, an underground Hong Kong martial arts tournament. Van Damme, a one-time karate world championship finalist, knew his way around the dojo as he proves bringing the pain to Bolo Yeung with a display of his trademark roundhouse kicks - shrugging off a face-full of quicklime and a seriously terrible '80s synth soundtrack in the process. - - - - - -
In A.W.O.L., Van Damme's legionnaire-on-the-lam Lyon Gaultier is wheeled out as after-dinner entertainment for bloodthirsty yuppies and forced to go mano-a-mano with the aptly-named Attila. Seven-and-a-bit feet of mutton-chomped monstrousness, Attila proceeds to pulverise him for five uninterrupted minutes. Just as we're reaching for the Seagal DVD, a bloodied and battered JCVD rouses himself to turn the tables with a blur of stonewashed high-kicking. With the crowd baying for a brutal coup de grace, JCVD walks away, proving that genuine humanity rests beneath that rippled torso. Or that he's gone a bit soft. - - - - - -
The opening fight sequence in Timecop may not quite see Van Damme at his ass-kicking best, but then he's just been woken up in the middle of a lie-down. Bleary-eyed it may be, but this scrap ticks all the key JCVD boxes, as he fights off three Tazar-wielding intruders using knives, high-kicks and, er, tea towels. All while clad only in pants. Once again, the ability to do the splits proves the difference. As 50,000 volts worth of Tasar-based incineration course across the kitchen floor, JCVD somehow balances himself lithely between dishwasher and sideboard, saving his life and treating the world to another glimpse of his bum. - - - - - -
THE PENGUIN PUNCH-UP!
The villain-in-disguise scene is a staple of the '80s action blockbuster, as Under Siege's musicians or Die Hard 2's handymen proved. None, though, has been executed with as much surreal panache as Van Damme's unmasking of Icey, Sudden Death's mascot-cum-lady terrorist. Locked in kitchen combat deep in the bowels of the Pittsburgh's Civic Arena, Van Damme's beleaguered fireman puts every available appliance and condiment (note the use of chilli flakes) to good use, in a scene that plays like an ultra-violent edition of Saturday Kitchen. - - - - - -
John Woo's Hollywood debut Hard Target sees JCVD cast as Chance Boudreaux, a lank-haired loner on the streets of New Orleans. When Chance finds distressed damsel Yancy Butler being mugged by four henchmen, he is forced to administer massive doses of Cajun-style justice. Within minutes, arch-villain Lance Henriksen is advertising for new henchmen. Returning Yancy's stolen handbag to her, JCVD wanders off into the sunset to an axe Blues guitar solo. The haircut may be rubbish, but the nonchalant toughness is remarkable.
THE DEATH TOUCH!
Also known as Dim Mak, this ancient Chinese technique can be used to cause paralysis or even death by impairing the flow of energy through the human body. Or, as Van Damme proves in Bloodsport, it can be used to smash bricks into tiny pieces. Channelling all his training and martial artistry, Franck Dux destroys the bottom of five bricks, leaving the others unscathed. This impresses everyone apart from JCVD nemesis Bolo 'The Chinese Hercules' Yeung who wanders off muttering darkly, "Very good. But brick not hit back." - - - - - -
THE SNAKE PUNCH!
Taking time out from doing dammage to human adversaries, JCVD dishes some out to a reptile, deep in the Louisiana bayou in hobo epic Hard Target. Grabbing a rattler just as it's poised to strike Yancy Butler, Van Damme proceeds to punch its little fangy lights out. After rendering it unconscious with his fist of fury, he demonstrates the ingenuity of a cub scout to build a viper-based booby trap to surprise the trackers hot on their heels. - - - - - -
THE DRUNK DANCING!
Momentarily sidetracked from his quest to wreck terrible revenge on the man who crippled his brother in Kickboxer, JCVD gets down and nasty in a Thai bar to Beau Williams's Feeling So Good Today. Ok, he's had a few ales but he still proves that while his fists were made for fighting, those loins were built for lovin', in an amazing fusion of Flashdance-meets-MC Hammer shit-meets your Dad on the wedding dancefloor. Fingersnaps; the splits; tank top and slacks; bump and grind - it's all there. Unfortunately the Thai locals aren't feeling the funk and Jean-Claude is forced to destroy them. - - - - - -
THE SPINNING ROUNDHOUSE!
Double Impact is memorable for two things: the sight of Van Damme beating himself up in a fraternal face-off, and a punchy reunion with old enemy Bolo Yeung. The two had become firm friends during the filming of Bloodsport, but there's minimal love lost in this shipboard smackdown. Chucking barrels like a demented Donkey Kong, Yeung runs into a balletic example of the JCVD Jumping Roundhouse™, sending him spinning into a conveniently placed fuse-box and a fiery death. - - - - - -
THE UPPERCUT BALL PUNCH!
Jean-Claude likes a fair fight, but isn't afraid to go below the belt when the circumstances demanded. And when faced with the massive Sumo-styled Pumola in Bloodsport, the circumstances definitely demanded. Pumola may have expected JCVD to jump into his trademark splits, but the driving uppercut straight to the charltons would have come as a nasty surprise. From then on, it takes only a featherweight finishing move from JCVD to put him on the canvas.
Not satisfied to show prowess merely through his fighting moves, Van Damme also shows off the virility and strength of Samson with this bouffant coiffeur in Bloodsport, with a just touch of the George Michael blow-dry circa Careless Whisper. No matter that it might get mussed up in the ring, this 'do is artfully teased for training montages to compliment his immaculate white trousers and bare chest. - - - - - -
The aging leading man must adapt to the changes in his appearance, and this Julius Caesar-like crop is every bit the powerful patrician. Note the carefully lightened colour (courtesy of Just For Men) to cover any first signs of grey. At least he has abandoned the mullet. For now. - - - - - -
Looking like the sleazy waiter eyeing up his next holidaymaker victim, JCVD shines his leather jacket with the same gloss as his face and hair. This heavy-lidded predator is greased up and ready for action. But with this amount of Brylcreem weighing him down, he may have to slither instead of run to catch his prey. - - - - - -
The dodgy permed 'do that Jean-Claude donned for Hard Target in 1993 would break Billy Ray Cyrus' heart over and over again. Nothing beats well-oiled long, curly tendrils to make a man feel like a man. Accompanied by the hawkish look in his eyes and hardman wife-beater, this mullet really is JCVD's crowning glory. - - - - - -
This long and tousled "shag" would have made Rachel from Friends proud. He may be a Replicant, but that sure is a great weave. This do of 2001 was a markedly feminine change for the usually macho man.
Loving nothing more than donning a skin-tight lycra unitard to display his form to its full potential, Jean-Claude comes over all Rudolph Nureyev for this ballet-inspired photo shoot. With his kickboxing training, he makes light work of this version of a Grand jeté or horizontal leap - although it doesn't quite match up to those trademark splits. - - - - - -
Sun, sea, sand and pretending to be a sail billowing in the wind… what a perfect way to spend time on the beach. With a skimpy white posing pouch and precarious pose between two ropes, he shows us all we ever wanted to see from a basking god like the Muscles from Brussels. This bronzed Adonis is all man, and oh so sexy... - - - - - -
Oh, what a dreamy pin-up. Surrounded by flowers and wearing a brown leather waistcoat, there could be nothing more '90s than this poster shoot. Showing his softer side for all the ladies out there, Jean-Claude is also using his greatest weapon - those come-to-bed eyes... - - - - - -
Aaaaah, it's so cuddly (and the baby tiger ain't bad either). All action heroes know it is part of the job description to show a little muscle here and there - but JCVD goes that extra mile, stripping bare to show us his animalistic side and letting his eyes do the talking. Grrrrrr. Not sure how the poor tiger feels about it though. - - - - - -
Like the lost member of the Village People, he is cranking it up to the max with his wrench in hand, tightening those nuts and securing his position as one helluva hot handyman. Beware though - he could cause some serious Van Dammage with that thing...