Director: Peter Hyams
Writer: Mark Verheiden (story by Mark Verheiden and Mike Richardson)
Distributed By: Universal Pictures
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mia Sara, Ron Silver, Bruce McGill
Release Date: September 16th, 1994
After Max Walker (Jean-Claude Van Damme) loses his wife Melissa Walker (Mia Sara), Max enlists to be in the Time Enforcement Commission, a top government organization designed to prevent criminals abusing the newly discovered time travel technology. But when Max arrests his old partner Lyle Atwood (Jason Schombing) for making money from the 1930s stock market, Max finds out there’s more to the scheme. Ruthless Senator Aaron McComb (Ron Silver) is extorting the past to raise funds for his presidential campaign. As Senator McComb changes time and hunts down Max, Max must travel back to 1994 to stop Senator McComb, to fix the past. And maybe his own.
From the late eighties to mid-nineties, Hollywood decided that it was the era for the big action stars. And that era was awesome. You had your Schwarzenegger and Stallone. You had your Lundgren and even your Seagal. And then you had…Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Aside from his tongue twister name, most people outside of late Generation X to early Generation Y probably won’t remember his films. But basically, he had some good ones (Bloodsport), some stinkers (Street Fighter), and then you had Timecop, which definitely fell into the good category.
Jean-Claude Van Damme will kill you with his feet.
Now before you watch this film, you have to realize that it’s a Van Damme film. And Jean-Claude Van Damme isn’t what you would call a great actor. People might make fun of action stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. But here’s the thing about Schwarzenegger and Stallone – they have just enough talent to pull off a decent performance and they knew how to sell their roles. With Van Damme…not so much.
So basically, you have two options. You can be a cranky cynic and bitch and moan about Van Damme. Or you can accept that it’s a Van Damme film, pound your chest, and enjoy the show.
Movie Rule #544: Hit men love to hang out at malls or the merry-go-round.
Fortunately, the film doesn’t simply rely on Van Damme’s star power. I can’t say the other performances were super amazing, but they did fine. I really like Ron Silver as villainous Senator Aaron McComb. He has just the right blend of being a dick and being humorous. It’s also interesting how he played not one role but two, if you consider the ruthless 2004 Senator McComb compared to his ambitious but more naive 1994 Senator McComb. Bruce McGill plays your typical director of the force (Commander Eugene Matuzak), but at least his friendship with Max Walker is believable, and he has just enough complexity to keep it interesting. We don’t see too much of Mia Sara (aka Ferris Bueller’s girlfriend) as Melissa Walker, but when we do she does a decent job. Basically, there wasn’t any actor who really pulled me out of the film with a bad performance.
How the internet was supposed to be in the 00s. And by the look on his face, I think we all know what he's watching.
If there’s one big advantage to having Van Damme starring in the film, it’s the action scenes. The film doesn’t go bananas with one action scene after another (and for the better), but when they do one, they do it well and they get pretty creative without getting too ridiculous. A good mix of martial arts, everyday tools (wrenches and kitchen knives) used as weapons, and some gun play. It also doesn’t hurt that most of the special effects have aged decently enough.
Speaking of special effects, I like what they did with the time traveling here. The time mechanisms aren’t anything spectacular. But the time traveling itself is interesting enough. Of course, you can’t go into the future because
of budget restraints the future is unwritten, and we don’t go too far back into the past either. For the most part it’s between the years 1994 and 2004. But they make the most of it and fewer years means less WTF moments and plot holes, just as long as you don’t over think it (as with any time film). The only major time gripe I had was with the idea that two objects can’t occupy the same space at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the scientific principle. But their take on it is that the same past and future objects can’t even remotely come into physical contact with each other. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but the point is, if you ever go back in time, don’t touch yourself.
Time traveling can be a bitch.
But the most important part here, is the story. Is it Oscar worthy? No. But it’s fun and pretty well constructed. They have a good balance between serious and humorous (even taking a jab or two at Van Damme). There are no major plot holes that I can think of (again, just as long as you don’t over think it), and they threw in some genuine twists and turns that surprised me. Oh, and did I mention that it was written by the same guy who wrote the comics (Mark Verheiden)?
Movie Rule #549: Asian assassins always carry knives with them.
All in all, Timecop is a solid film. For the first quarter of the film I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out, but afterwards it was an entertaining ride. Yes, it’s a 90s film, with its tongue in cheek lines and random softcore porn scenes. The important part, though, is that it’s a fun 90s action flick. And most importantly, it proves that Jean-Claude Van Damme could be an enjoyable to watch action star.