Double Damme: 'Timecop' Review
Who can forget the glorious ‘90s? The golden age of starter jackets, bell bottoms, light up sneakers, bucket hats, and a million other terrible style trends. One specific staple of the denim era, however, sticks out vividly in my memory. As a cinephile, the biggest sin of the ‘90s had to have been the countless low to mid-budget action movies with their blatantly plagiaristic storylines, now dated movie stars, and even more aggressively dated visual effects.
Enter Timecop, an all too totally ‘90s film that is equal parts action movie, time travel flick, and Terminator rip-off. Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme in place of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the film is a tale of personal tragedy, sacrifice, dedication to love, and the consequences of actions – or, at least it might have been given the studio had hired a competent writer at any point prior to releasing it. In Timecop, Van Damme becomes, well, a "timecop"; elite police tasked with protecting the past from meddling time criminals from going back in time to change history for their own selfish means,. While on a difficult assignment of preventing time criminals from altering business deals in the past to cover up allegations raised against Senator McComb (Ron Silver) regarding campaign funds, Max Walker (Van Damme) decides to also save his deceased wife from being murdered by a gang of thugs in the same time period.
Although it does include a gratuitous yet so bad it's good timecop Walker and past Walker team up fight sequence, the film never manages to outgrow its own tropey immaturity to become a worthwhile story. There are, unfortunately, not enough cheesy but satisfying moments in the film to overshadow its otherwise obvious mediocrity. Even with its creative reverse Minority Report premise, the movie squanders its potential to deliver an interesting narrative. In fact, it actively tries works against itself to obstruct any possible avenues through which such a feat may be accomplished. Instead of forcing Walker to live with the future consequences of his changes to the past, the movie does away with any restricting permanence by explaining that events changed in the past can be changed once again without any serious repercussions. Quite the middle finger to just about all time-travel-related media I’ll say.
Even ripping the frame for frame Terminator time travel visual effects, in all aspects aside from the story, Timecop is just a bad attempt at copying decent science fiction film. Attempting to capture that same Schwarzenegger charm, Van Damme tries his hand at quippy one-liners in the hopes that they’ll stick but his thick Belgian accent and lack of any discernible charisma ensure that any potential culturally immortal soundbites are doomed to obscurity. The rest of the lackadaisical cast is just as perfunctorily adequate with only Silver giving even a sliver of enthusiasm in his performance.
Credit should, however, be given to the intense and energetic fight scenes sprinkled throughout the film that offer an adrenaline-fueled respite from the rest of the film’s crushing soullessness. Featuring prime high-kicking Van Damme, the cloning effect is surprisingly well done and its double Walker result is cheesy but undeniably fun. The successes of these few elements of the film do not, however, compensate for its failures in most of its other departments such as acting, soundtrack, story, and the rest of its frugally rendered visual effects.
Timecop is actually a fine film – if you’d like to see what was wrong with a lot of ‘90s action cinema. In a tragic irony, viewing this film might actually be the closest you’ll ever go to traveling back to the ‘90s, bowl cuts and all.