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May 2, 2011

Movie Mondays: Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision

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Written by: AHudson
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Title: Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision
Director: Steve Boyum
Writer: Gary Scott ThompsonĀ  (created by Mike Richardson and Mark Verheiden)
Distributed By: Universal Pictures
Starring: Jason Scott Lee, Thomas Ian Griffith, Mary Page Keller, John Beck
Release Date: September 30th, 2003

If you’re familiar with the first film’s plot or even compare the posters, it’s easy to tell that while Timecop and Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision bare the same idea and franchise, they are very different films. Different plot, different characters, different cast and crew, different themes, and a different tone.

For starters, the film has Jason Scott Lee instead of Jean-Claude Van Damme. This makes sense story wise. The first film tied all loose ends with a logically happy ending. So there’s no point in having Max Walker continue his story.

Fortunately, Jason Scott Lee (playing Ryan Chan) is a very underrated actor and is one of my favorites. He’s just a very likable guy whilst still acting instead of playing himself. It was also interesting how they tied in his being Chinese-American into the plot without it being preachy. Ryan Chan is written as the good guy, but fortunately they don’t turn him into a Gary Sue or a white knight. Mostly thanks to Jason Scott Lee’s performance.

CSI 2025

Also, the villain is different. Rather than having a ruthless Senator McComb (played by Ron Silver), they now have Brandon Miller (Thomas Ian Griffith), a timecop gone rogue. Fortunately, they don’t make him into some Nazi who wants to go back in time and rule the world. Brandon Miller actually isn’t a bad guy. Sure, he’s violent and arguably psychotic. But all he wants to do is kill Hitler and make a lot of other changes so he can save millions of lives and make the world a better place. Even if that means killing his colleagues and ignoring the potential catastrophic consequences of event changing. I also like the chemistry between Griffith and Lee. Plus, Griffith does a good job with what he’s given.

Billy Idol's long lost cousin

The rest of the cast isn’t bad (especially compared to most direct-to-video casting). None shine as well as Jason Scott Lee or Thomas Ian Griffith, but Mary Page Keller (as the doctor aptly named Doc), John Beck (as director in charge O’Rourke), and even Tava Smiley (as Timecop partner Tyler Jeffers) do a good job. The rest of the cast are mostly mediocre stock characters, though, with a few exceptions like Ryan Chan’s parents (Professor Josh Chan played by Kenneth Choi and Cyndi Chan played by Wen Yann Shih). But the main cast would probably do even better if they got developed in the plot.

Movie Rule #987: Everyone in a Chinese restaurant knows kung fu. You have been warned.

The plot itself is the film’s Achilles’s heel above all else. The idea of Ryan Chan chasing Brandon Miller all over multiple decades sounds cool on paper. But in reality, it plays like this for the most part:

Ryan Chan goes back in time -> Almost catches Brandon Miller -> Jumps back and finds changes -> Tracks down where Brandon Miller is now in the time line -> Ryan Chan goes back in time -> Almost catches Brandon Miller -> Jumps back and finds changes -> Tracks down where Brandon Miller is now in the time line -> Ryan Chan goes back in time -> Almost catches Brandon Miller -> Jumps back and finds changes -> Tracks down where Brandon Miller is now in the time line -> et cetera, et cetera, et cetera

Time traveling looks like such fun.

I admit, though, the constant minor changes whenever Brandon Miller changes the past can be funny. It reminds me of The Simpsons Halloween special where Homer keeps messing up the time line with his toaster oven. But there’s a reason why time traveling films such as the Back to the Future trilogy or even the first Timecop span only two to three decades. Having too many decades can spread the story way too thin. Especially since the film is only a quick 81 minutes. We don’t spend enough time in any of the eras; only a few minutes at the most. And most importantly, we don’t get to spend a lot of time with the main characters and story, unlike the first film.

This is what happens when you touch yourself.

Most of the other elements are decent, but most aren’t as good as Timecop. The action scenes are a prime example. Don’t get me wrong, Jason Scott Lee can do action scenes, he kicked ass in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. And the scenes are choreographed nicely. But the problem here is that the scenes are punch, punch, kick, kick, with little variation. Unlike Jean-Claude Van Damme’s fighting scenes in the first film. Also, I wasn’t quite as involved with the character’s dilemma as I was in the first film. This is the most important element in creating tension and suspense in an action sequence. I wasn’t on the edge of my seat as I was in Timecop‘s final fight scene.


It certainly isn’t a big budget film, but at the same time, it seems fairly high in the direct-to-video budget sense. Still, the lack of budget shows up on some stuff. The sets are a prime example. It’s not that they’re cheap sets, but most of them are your generic cookie cutter sets such as the western saloon or the dance club. Another big example of the lack of budget is the score. It certainly wasn’t terrible; at least it fits the style. But a lot of it is passive electronica that doesn’t elevate the film. The biggest example is the 80s club, which has mild dance trance music that could apply to any modern decade. I know they probably couldn’t afford licensed music, but still, when it comes to the 80s, I wanna hear a song that makes me feel like I’m snorting coke in a tiger striped suit.

Guess what decade they're in.

This film is nothing spectacular, but it’s watchable. As far as direct-to-video and definitely as far as direct-to-video-sequels go, Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision certainly falls into the better films. However, I recommend that you see how you like the first Timecop film and if you even enjoy it before you delve into this one.

Andrew Hudson