“I can’t tell you anything. He’ll send somebody back to wipe out my grandparents. It’ll be like I’ll never existed. My mother, my father, my wife, my kids, my damn cat!”
The Scoop: 1994 R, directed by Peter Hyams and starring Jean Claude Van Damme, Mia Sara, and Ron Silver.
Tagline: Turn Back the Clock and You’re History
Summary Capsule: JCVD works for the TEC and travels allllllll the way back to 1994 to stop a corrupt politician from altering the future. There’s not nearly as much kickboxing as you might expect.
Al’s rating: This is definitely one that’s worth your time. (See what I did there?)
Al’s review: Is there anyone who doesn’t love Jean Claude Van Damme? I’m going to go ahead and assume the answer is no (LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU SO I’M RIGHT). After exploding into America’s hearts and loins in the eighties, there was only one question on people’s minds in 1994: How would the Muscles from Brussels cope with the complexities of time travel? Would he lead a high-kicking revolution against the Morlocks? Would he make out with his mother at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance? We needed an answer. An answer only Jean Claude could give us. Probably an answer that required subtitles.
In Timecop, Van Damme plays Max Walker, a hard-bitten agent of the Temporal Enforcement Commission (known as the TEC) in the far-off future of 2004. Once happily married to Ferris Bueller’s girlfriend, Max’s life was shattered by a brutal home invasion that resulted in her murder and a curiously gigantic explosion. Now, he lives only to perform his job during office hours and to drink himself to sleep at night. One also assumes he sets aside an hour or two to style his hair because Max is rocking a pretty outstanding helmet here.
On a mission to track down a fellow agent gone rogue, Max travels to 1929, where he finds his target manipulating the stock market to amass money for Senator Aaron McComb, a present-day politician looking to buy his way into the White House. McComb (Ron Silver—remember the guy who got Jed Bartlet reelected in Season 3 of The West Wing? Him.) is not only in charge of the TEC, but, according to the rogue agent, also already has half of the department in his pocket. The news sends Max on a lonely quest to discover the truth and keep the timeline in order. Unfortunately, it only takes one double cross at the wrong moment before he finds himself in a world he doesn’t recognize. Now, Max has just one final chance to travel back to 1994 and set things right.
So, what is there to say about Timecop? Well, first and foremost, it’s worth noting that, for a movie that’s predicated on zipping around in history, there really isn’t a whole lot of time travel going on. The sequence in the 1920s is fun and I really like the brief jump into the Confederate South, but everything else either takes place in 1994, which isn’t long enough ago to feel nostalgic about, or 2004, which looks exactly like 1994 except for their crappy-looking future cars. We don’t even get to see a Back To the Future II-style evil future. Mostly, our hero is just running around in nondescript factories and hospitals and that just kinda sucks.
Also, I find it slightly odd that timecops seem to stroll around in their uniforms when they travel. I suppose you could get away with it in 1994, but what if you have to travel to the old west? Or medieval times? It just seems like they should be visiting a wardrobe department before hopping in their Crash Test Dummy car. And speaking of the car, how do they leave in a car and show up through the portal by themselves? And how do they leave through the portal and show back up in the car? Until I get an answer, I’m assuming there’s transtemporal valet parking.
Minor quibbles aside, Timecop is actually rather famous in the Van Damme oeuvre for how good it is. I mean, it’s not Gone With the Wind good or even Gone in Sixty Seconds good, but JCVD actually delivered a pretty solid movie in Timecop. It’s got some fairly quotable action-flick dialogue and a likeable, quirky supporting cast, particularly Bruce McGill (Jack Dalton!) as Max’s boss, Matuzak. Even Jean Claude himself turns in a performance that doesn’t rest entirely on his ability to lift his leg over his head. It’s not the best film you’ll see all year (in fact, it probably won’t even be the best film you see all day), but when you get the urge to see a kickboxing Belgian run up walls and do jumping splits in his kitchen, you could do a whole lot worse than this.
- Wait a minute. They say you can only travel to the past since the future hasn’t happened yet. But, once you travel to the past, it becomes the new present and you can’t travel back to the old present because it’s no longer the old present but the new future, which means the new present, which was the past, is now oh no I’ve gone crosseyed.
- So, I guess the mission of “stop people changing the past” only applies to those labeled Bad Guys in the script. Otherwise, I think the sequel is going to be all about Max getting court martialed.
- Fun Fact: Cool Points earned for Naked Mia Sara are negated by Naked Jean Claude Van Damme.
- Timecop is based on a Dark Horse comic book series of the same name. Maybe they can explain the time car thing to me.
- Max is always shown as running through the time portals, while McComb is always shown walking. Apparently, this signifies that one is running out of time and the other has all the time in the world. Apparently.
Lyle Atwood: I can’t tell you anything! He’ll send somebody back to wipe out my grandparents. It’ll be like I’ll never existed. My mother, my father, my wife, my kids, my damn cat!
Max Walker: There is never enough time.
Melissa Walker: Time for what?
Max Walker: To satisfy a woman.
Melissa Walker: Then you never want to miss an opportunity.
Max Walker: He must have read my mind.
Melissa Walker: The way you speak English, he’d have to.
Senator McComb: When I’m in office, it’s going to be just like the 80’s. The top 10% will get richer and the other 90% can emigrate to Mexico where they can get a better life.
Matuzak: You’re allowed to have a life, you know. I read it in a manual somewhere.
Senator McComb: You see, I’m an ambitious Harvard-educated visionary who deserves to be the most powerful man in the world and you… you’re an idiot who never figured out that the only way to make anything of himself with all that fancy kicking was on Broadway.
Max Walker: Thanks for clearing that up.
Sarah Fielding: You’re not funny.
Max Walker: I’m never funny.
Sarah Fielding: I really could care less whether you like me or not, but you don’t know a thing about me. I was with IA for two years, I’m field-rated in weapons and tactics, and speak three languages. Impressed?
Max Walker: I’m blown away.
Sarah Fielding: I read the Atwood file.
Max Walker: You didn’t mention you could read.
McComb: Never interrupt me when I’m talking to myself.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Double Impact
- Minority Report