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A famous action hero/martial arts star comes out of retirement to assume an alter ego as undercover private contractor named Jean-Claude Johnson. He must also deal with aging and his ex-girlfriend whom he still loves.

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Jean-Claude Van Johnson movie full length review - A pleasant surprise!

For those few of us who have followed Van Damme's post 90's career, there hasn't been a lot to talk about in a very positive light.

Nearly all of his films were low-budget direct-to-video releases that were high on mediocre action and more high still on mediocre acting. Then came the welcome surprise "JCVD" - a Belgian production that parodied Van Damme as himself caught up in a real life bank robbery. The film was a strange mix of action, drama and comedy but it worked and Van Damme was praised for his performance even going so far as to be nominated for several best actor awards (yes, you read that correctly). Unfortunately for him, this did not lead to better things and he soon found himself back to making formulaic low-budget action flicks.

A few years later he got another chance to return to the limelight when he appeared in "The Expendables 2" - by far the biggest budget film he had done in a very long time (possibly ever). Yet despite Van Damme's turn as the villain being arguably the best performance in the film, it too failed to reignite his career and back to the realms of mediocrity he went.

Here with "Jean-Claude Van Johnson" my first thought was that this was going to be the American sitcom version of "JCVD" and essentially, it is. Van Damme is once again playing a parody of himself, but here it is done more for comedic effect than in "JCVD". Thankfully, the script is quite witty, being closer in vibe to a show like "Community" rather than a slap-stick action-film parody like "Hot Shots" and most - if not all - of the jokes land on the nose. The action too is well executed (though it is not the focal point of the show) and the plot is fast-paced and entertaining. But really the whole show rests upon Van Damme's performance and for the most part, it is spot on. The breadth of emotions that he undergoes in this 30-minute pilot is a fair sight larger than you might expect and he sells it well.

Is it perfect... no. Van Damme's love interest looks about half his age (though she plays the role well), the aforementioned fast-pacing could actually be toned-down a touch to let things breathe a bit more organically, and just occasionally some of Van Damme's delivery is a little "off". However, this is a pilot and you have to expect a few kinks in the armour the first time round. The important thing is the ingredients all work and there is plenty of room for this to grow should it be picked up for a season.

Succinctly put, this is the best thing Van Damme has worked on in a long time. It might too very well be his last shot at escaping the direct-to-video action world. So please if you're a Van Damme fan check this out (and leave a favourable review on Amazon while you're at it as they tally these to decide on whether or not to pick up the show) and if you're a Van Damme hater check this out too - he just might surprise you.