Timecop – 3 out of 5
You know what time travel needs? Cops. You know what that cop needs to do? The splits. That’s how I imagine the studio pitch was when this comic book story was being adapted. Recently, one of my favorite podcasts How Did This Get Made? announced that they were going to watch this as their next film and since I haven’t watched this since the mid-90s I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to revisit the film. Let’s do this!
|The buns of temporal law enforcement!|
In 1994, time travel is discovered but the folks in charge realize that nefarious types will use that to cause trouble so the Time Enforcement Commission (TEC) is established. Potential recruit for this new organization; Max Walker (Jean-Claude Van Damme), sees his wife assassinated and he goes on to become a veteran. Ten years after his tragedy, he’s assigned a new partner and they are sent back to ’94 to investigate a senator by the name of McComb (Ron Silver) after they learn that he had an operative using time travel to fund the senator’s presidential campaign. However, Walker soon realizes that McComb’s plans are far larger and the man is far more dangerous than he originally believed.
|A young Barack Obama seen here starting the TEC.|
Timecop is 90s cheesy action at its best. It has a few elements that work in its favor and makes it a decent film to watch but it has a lot more elements that don’t work at all. Wait, scratch that. These non-working elements that I just mentioned do, in fact, work in their own way. However, they work in making the film one of those “it’s so bad it’s good" features. This film is in no way a great or even a decent movie but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its fair share of entertainment value.
To be fair, there are some elements to the film that are genuinely great. For example, the action in the movie is fairly decent. These moments really don’t have anything super memorable or have sequences that stand out but, from a basic standpoint, they are decently constructed and good enough to satisfy an action itch. Additionally, Jean-Claude Van Damme’s acting isn’t too shabby. No knock on the guy but he is known for kicking stupidly high and looking really good while kicking ass, he isn’t known for being a thespian. Currently, JCVD is showing that he’s improved a lot as an actor (amusingly enough, he showed this in JCVD) but, at the time that Timecop came out, he still wasn’t seen as a phenomenal actor but he’s doing a really good job in this film and appears less of just a guy who is just around to kick and occasionally spit out a line (and sadly, this one is not memorable for its witty and pithy one-liners). Finally, Timecop actually has some decent special effects that stand the test of time. This film came out during computer effects’ infancy and some movies from this era tend to look dated. Timecop isn’t perfect in this regard—it’s not something like Jurassic Park where it still looks fantastic—and the movie does have some very cringe-worthy CG moments but there are definitely times where it doesn’t look too bad nor does it look horribly dated.
|Take a wild guess where this scene falls in the CG spectrum.|
The problems that hinder this movie stem from the previously mentioned bad special effects but also from a story that doesn’t really feel like it is ever going to embrace the time travel aspect. Yes, there is a moment that takes place at the end of the Roarin’ 20s but the film feels too grounded in the present—even watching the film 23 years later (realistically, the 90s doesn’t feel that long ago for me). Even the film’s presentation of the future doesn’t really feel that futuristic. The future takes place in 2004 and all it really has to show for it is some laser guns and self-driving cars that look ridiculous. With a title like Timecop, you would think the story would be something akin to DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and would involve a lot of time travel in order to stop time bandits (not the movie Time Bandits) but, instead, you get a film that’s about a senator who wants to exploit time travel for his political career. When a film like Terminator 2 exists, a time travel film with Jean-Claude Van Damme about a senator manipulating time to hold the same office that a barely literate, woman assaulting reality star currently holds, the feature just can’t compete.
|Who knew that the Vipers from Battlestar Galactica were instrumental in|
The final element that really didn’t work for me in this film was the antagonist. It’s already pretty difficult to take the idea of a senator using time travel in order to fund his campaign for president and make it something that screams action film but the movie also tries to make the very concept that the senator is a badass mob boss-like guy and that is incredibly hard to swallow. To make matters worse, Ron Silver’s performance is so boring that it actually is working against how hard the movie is trying to paint him as a tough guy. Every line he delivers sounds like he’s just there to get the paycheck and, in the rare moment where they try to illustrate that he’ll get physical and hurt a guy if they get in his way, it just comes off laughably bad because Silver just isn’t convincing when dishing out the pain and the impact just plain didn’t look like it hurt. It’s never a good sign in your action film when you want to see the antagonist defeated for no other reason than the fact he’s boring and you just don’t want to hear his mundane and monotone speeches.
|The face of our...bad guy? Really?|
As bad as these elements can get, they strangely work in the film’s favor. Even the plot holes and the weird way that if the same person comes in contact with themselves from another point in time they turn into some weird CG goo end up making this film something to behold. Yes, I admitted there were some good things in Timecop but it’s the bad things that make it worth watching. As awful as Ron Silver is as the antagonist, he’s amusing to watch because someone, at some point, thought he would be a great bad guy. As bad as the CG can get, it’s still pretty hilarious to see. Additionally, as awesome as it is to see JCVD do the splits and kick, sometimes these moments feel forced and it’s kinda amusing (especially when an extended leg is used to stop a purse snatcher). Finally, this movie is so delightfully 90s. The terrible fashion, the rollerblader who shows up and the henchmen with their earrings and awful haircuts, these all work in concert as a reminder that the 90s had some great things but also had some really embarrassing things and that equals accidental comedy within Timecop.
|Rollerblades, chain wallet, backwards hat, douchey facial hair, a mall, and literally|
the year in the background...but is this 90s enough?
I won’t try to argue that Timecop is the embodiment of a prime action cut from the decade that a lot of Millennials won’t shut up about (yes, I know you’re a 90s kids because you never stop posted “You know you’re a 90s kid when” memes and your nostalgia love is almost as bad as Baby Boomers who keep pining for a time that never truly existed). I’ll be honest, this movie isn’t great. The story kinda sucks, the action isn’t memorable at all and the bad special effects outweigh the decent ones. However, that being said, there’s still a charm to it that makes it a fun movie. Sure, a great deal of that charm is derived from the bad elements but those bad elements make the movie sorta fun and keeps it from being boring. Also, I don’t hate 90s kids…just the memes they share where they loudly announce they’re 90s kids.