With a nod, a wink, and a flying foot jab, Jean-Claude Van Damme appears as Jean-Claude Van Damme in this meta-action pic, a smoothed-down satire in which the Muscles from Brussels finds himself back in his hometown - and in a hostage situation when he stumbles on a robbery in progress at a neighborhood post office.

Van Damme's career in ruins (Steven Seagal, who has cut off his ponytail, is getting Van Damme's parts), and broke from fighting an ugly custody battle back in L.A., the moody Belgian is mistaken for the perpetrator of the heist. The SWAT team descends, and so do the news media and swarms of fans.

A clever art-imitates-life-imitates-art send-up of celebrityhood and the state of the action-hero genre, JCVD juggles humor with whomping martial-arts moves and a kind of melancholy star turn from the melancholy, muscular star.

Van Damme shows surprising chops in a performance that requires him to be himself, mock himself, and rise above his own persona all at the same time. Movie buffs will appreciate the knowing digs at various Van Damme titles, and there's a very funny aside about Hong Kong director John Woo and his artsy predilection for pigeons.    - Steven Rea


Directed by Mabrouk El Mechri. With Jean-Claude Van Damme, Saskia Flanders, François Beukelaers, Jean-François Wolff, Karim Belkhadra, François Damiens, Dean Gregory, Anne Paulicevich, John Flanders, Zinedine Soualem. Distributed by Peach Arch Entertainment.

Running time: 1 hours, 32 minutes.

Parent's guide: R (for language and some violence).