Comic Book Movies 101: Timecop

For Van Damme, Timecop in easily one of his better films (in fact director Peter Hyams of 2010 and Outland fame went on to direct him in another, Sudden Death) and probably his most complicated as time travel is the order of the day.

The film is given a set up where we find out that time travel is possible and that already someone out there has been abusing the privilege. We then get Van Damme’s young cop living happily with his wife until one night he finds himself attacked at home by unknown assailants. They make short work of him and he is saved only by the fact that he is wearing a protective vest. But his wife is less lucky as the whole house goes up – taking her with it.

Cut to 10 years later. Well actually we cut back to the past again as we discover another greedy money seeker has gone back to play the stock markets. He is interrupted by Van Damme (Now ten years older and working for a law enforcement agency that is there to prevent the abuse of time travel). And from here on in the plot as they say thickens! In fact it is so plentiful you wonder how on earth Van Damme managed to get so lucky with it.

Many poke fun at Van Damme’s cheese ball acting at times, but what we must remember is that he is memorable for many other traits.  Yeah ok he gets his arse out on a regular basis and in every other film for no reason they feel the need to explain why he has an accent (like that should be an issue anyway in modern society???), He also tends to have a scene where he does the splits. What else? How about his very recognisable fighting style? Or the fact that he has a prolonged cry when he sends out a kick of a punch? Not enough?  Well there is also in this film along with at least three others where he has played dual roles (Double Impact and Maximum Risk saw him play twins and Replicant saw him play a clone). Here he plays actually just one character but we have him in two different time frames. And at the end the two are brought together for the action climax.

Now this isn’t as much fun as watching him kick ten bells out of himself in Double Impact (which still ranks as one of the most entertaining and hilarious fights ever to take place on screen). This is altogether more serious an affair – and again it works. The henchmen he is pitted against are the usual big mullet headed ruffians you expect – but they have at least been given moments to set up your enjoyment of their demise.

Ron Silver as the greedy senator bent on making money from the past to assist his political gains in the future chews every scene he is in; and like Van Damme plays his role in two different time frames. It is nice to see the wheels turning in the past and the result it has reached in the future. The future version has all the fun and runs laps round Van Damme with some very colourful dialogue in the few scenes they share together.

The middle part of the film has Van Damme’s character sent on his main mission and is where all the back stabbing and double crossing begins to happen. When things go wrong and he returns to the future the world has changed and he now has to return to the past to correct the future (almost not too dissimilar from what Back to the Future Part II did when correcting the present by fixing an error in the past).  What we then get is our hero confronting his own dead wife in the past and having to enlist her help in order to fix things. Here we are lead to the climax which is the same scene from the beginning when his younger self was assaulted and his wife murdered. Of course by the end he manages to save not only the future but also his past – but the action in this scene is wonderfully played.

For a film that is now 17 years old of course the effects have dated rather badly (the haircuts were already dated when the film came out), but the story itself whilst having a few holes zips along nicely. If you are not a JCVD fan – you may still find that it has some entertainment factors to it. This is thanks mainly to a more complex plot, some nice set dressing (For Past, present and Future) and Hyam’s direction. In the wrong hands this would have looked cheaper and probably would have been very trite indeed. Instead we have a very efficient and fun thriller that let you use your brain as well as enjoy the action (even if it doesn’t make sense all the time; there is still a debate factor of how the logic works which is better than none).

As mentioned before – Star and Director went on to do Sudden Death (Van Damme’s Die Hard – which also worked very well) which was probably his last decent film until he did the film titled JVCD. Timecop then gets full marks for effort and content. It is what it is.

Steven Hurst

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