Austin Invasion: The Alamo Drafthouse Presents: VAN DAMMAGE!
Editor’s Note: With our writers spread out all over the US and even across the globe, we’re excited to launch our newest feature highlighting some of the fun, local events in our neighborhoods. We wish all our readers could experience these great events, but since it’s nigh impossible to travel across the globe for fun one-off events like this, we’re covering them for you! Stay tuned for more event coverage from cities like LA, Austin, NYC, London, and anywhere else we happen to be Invading.
One of the biggest disappointments in THE EXPENDABLES was an almost unanimous cryout amongst fans: Where is Jean Claude Van-Damme?! According to some news sources, he was offered a role but turned it down because he didn’t have enough of an explanation of who his character was.
We can be thankful that he passed on that opportunity, because if he was another face among the many in that first name, perhaps his inclusion wouldn’t have been as special as it is for THE EXPENDABLES 2.
It’s because the announcement of his casting being such a big deal that the world-renowned Alamo Drafthouse decided to host Van-Dammage, an event in the honor of The Muscles from Brussels, and it would turn out to be a night to remember.
Why was I excited for this event? Besides the obvious reason of the awesomeness of Jean Claude Van-Damme’s screen presence is the fact that JCVD is my first favorite actor. He truly is. When I was a kid, the only actor who appeared in enough movies for me to constantly get excited about was Van-Damme. I’ve seen most of his filmography that happened before 2009, and I love it all! Well, except for KNOCK OFF, that movie sucks. Secondly, we would be subjected to three mystery Van-Damme films before getting to see The Expendables 2 before its opening. With an extensive filmography, the three movies were anyone’s guess.
Our hosts for the evening, Alamo Programmers Zack Carlson, Greg MacLennan, and Bryan Connoly, came out dressed like characters from STREET FIGHTER and set the night off on the right foot by smashing wooden blocks with their feet and heads. And, as only the Alamo Drafthouse can provide, in addition to the ass-kicking entertainment, there was a custom menu full of Van-Damme centric items.
We started where it all began with Jean Claude Van-Damme; BLOODSPORT! I get the sense that the audience who hadn’t seen it before didn’t quite know what to make out of this film from it’s opening. Sure it’s slow, and that kid playing a young Frank Dux has maybe the strangest French accent ever recorded on film, but once it ramps up, it’s easy to see how this is the film that launched the career of his martial arts legend.
In Bloodsport, Jean Claude Van-Damme plays Frank Dux, a United States soldier who escapes temporarily to compete in a secret fighting competition called The Kumite. He attempts to honor his former teacher by winning the competition he’s trained for his whole life.
The Drafthouse Crowd didn’t know what they were in for with the second pick of the night; LIONHEART. To properly prepare us for the level of manliness about to be spewed upon the unsuspecting was a “heart-eating contest”. Volunteers trotted up to the stage and would compete to be the one who ate the most of a prepared slab of meat that resembled an animals heart, and for all we know it really could have been. Despite being one of my favorites, I didn’t think there would be any reason to hope that this would play because it’s one of the more obscure titles starring Van-Damme. Turns out I was right about not many people having seen it, but that did not deter programmer Greg. Suffice to say that many a life was changed for the better at this screening, and despite the overly sappy tone throughout the entire film.
Lionheart is the story of Léon Gaultier, a street fighter who attempts to avenge his brother’s death by competing in illegal fights thrown by rich people who have nothing better to do with their money. It features some great fighting, good acting and maybe the greatest sidekick in cinematic history.
It’s commendable that the Alamo programmers were able to find a theme and stick to it for this event, and that made the final film of the evening an obvious choice; UNIVERSAL SOLDIER. Roland Emmerich’s U.S. debut played well to this audience, but after the mind-blowing amazingness of Lionheart, it just seemed like the crowd was ready for some Expendables 2. Plus, this is one of those Van-Damme movies where he does a lot of shooting and not a lot of kicking, and on this night, we really just wanted some more martial arts.
Until next time, be sure to keep an eye out for this feature for all the happenings in Austin, Tx. as well as events happening in other cities that are home to some of Screen Invasion’s staff.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @jcdeleon1 for updates on all things movies and sometimes sports!