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Monday, 19 November 2018

Retro Review: Timecop (1994)

Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mia Sara, Ron Silver, Gloria Reuben
Genre: Sci-fi Action 
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $101 million

Plot: An officer for a security agency that regulates time travel, must fend for his life against a shady politician who is intent on changing the past to control the future 

'A Belly Flop'

Produced at $28 million, Timecop is a B-movie that looks lavish and stylish through its visuals, but as a full-on action flick, fails to do enough to be really spectacular.

After his wife, Melissa is murdered, cop Max Walker is a time cop from the future, who also works for a special government agency that uses time travel to capture criminals and villains He travels back in time to find his wife's killer, whilst evading capture by those who want him dead.

Being a comic book property, Timecop is far more plot-driven compared to many other Jean-Claude Van Damme films and whilst it is considered as his best effort, it is confusing as hell with a story difficult to wrap one's head around and it has a few plot holes. To note, Timecop was written by the same people who did Barb Wire with Pamela Anderson and the forgettable, Darkman sequel, ''Darkman 3: Die, Darkman, Die!''. Being a plot-driven action film also means this is boring and it never really takes the time travel thing to a different level and to be more dynamic and over-the-top. The time travel concept is neat, but this isn't conceived very well and the action is, in contrast to many other Van Damme action films, extremely tame. Peter Hyams is competent as a director, but in terms of out-&-out action films, whereupon his films are expected to have lots of quality action in spades, he just doesn't deliver. 

This could have also been a smart, highly- entertaining and engaging sci-fi actioner that is modelled and bears some similarities with Demolition Man; unfortunately, it has none of its wit, entertaining action and charismatic performances, notably that of ER actress Gloria Rueben who is terribly wasted as Max Walker's sidekick. Yes, Van Damme does the splits in his boxer shorts and showing off his then lean physique, but other than that, there isn't much in terms of over-the-top, high-kicking action one expects from the muscles from Brussels.

It has a chase sequence that moves from the hospital to a shopping centre, which was okay, but as it went on, the story became more uninteresting that I lost interest. It also borrows from The Terminator with the secret romance involving Max and his wife, but I found this stale that also reeked of Lifetime/Hallmark channel movie of the week quality and I just couldn't feel the onscreen chemistry felt between Van Damme and Mia Sara; Sara has one particular scene where she is topless. Ron Silver's bad guy is utterly bland and has no personality, whatsoever, who is dressed as if he could be mistaken for a banker. Performances as a whole are virtually stocky and unmemorable and neither of them manages to set the film alight.

It's a film that when one sees its on TV unless they are a massive Van Damme fanatic, they would watch it once. But after that, never again.

Final Verdict:

A considerable step down from Hard Target, though better than Streetfighter, Maximum Risk and The Hard Corps as far as Van Damme films go; nevertheless, Timecop doesn't go further enough to develop Max into an empathetic and charming enough character for me to buy into.

Lauded as JCVD's best film by many, unfortunately, Timecop is bogged down by a mundane story, as well as the lack of Van Damme's energetic fight scenes. Though he never set the action film world and Hollywood alight, Van Damme does try his best to put on a good show, even if his talents, especially martial arts-wise are restricted (much to the film's disadvantage) & bogged down by the script. At best it's competent, but otherwise, most of it is pretty forgettable.

That, and Hard Target still, in my eyes, reigns as the pinnacle of his career, which, unfortunately, he never managed to supercede after that.


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