Consider writer/director Mabrouk El Mechri's tight, intelligent JCVD Jean-Claude Van Damme's 8½. No, really: the muscles from Brussels stars as himself, an aging action movie star who finds himself caught up in a real-life action-movie plot as the patsy in a standoff between the police and some robbers. And while Van Damme starring in an elegiac movie about a life in movies might sound ludicrous, more surprising is how superb the role fits. El Mechri knows his star, his career, and the genre down pat, and JCVD hits all the action-flick marks, but what works best is the movie's emotional exploration of its star. At one point Van Damme directly addresses the camera for a candid, nearly six-minute monologue about his very career: It's a scene that could easily be mawkish, but Van Damme, his sad eyes and long face finally used to their emotive potential, absolutely nails it.