Timecop (1994)R

CapeTentHalf a tent

Jean-Claude van Dumb is a time-traveling government agent from the far-flung future of 2004. He goes back in time to un-kill his wife, which is incidental to stopping a rogue politician from using time travel to take over the country.

The comic origins of this movie were rather thin: it was apparently just a short one-off piece embedded in an anthology of spin-off crap using characters from Star Wars, Robocop, Alien/Predator, etc. The cover above is actually from a comic book re-adaptation of the movie.

Some say this is the Muscles from Brussels’ best movie. They also say the guy in the short-lived TV series did better in the same role.

One thing I always kinda hated about Star Trek is the excess of time travel stories. By the time of Star Trek: Voyager they were even establishing as background that Star Fleet officers are trained in how to avoid temporal paradoxes, should they happen to travel through time. Meaning they had way way too many such incidences. Enough for me to get sick of them. But at least Star Trek didn’t write their time travel adventures on an idiot level. This movie does. It reduces the complexities of time travel entirely to the level of a standard cheap generic eighties action movie. And God knows there is no movie more standard, cheap, or generic than an eighties action movie. Though one must remember that this one is actually post-eighties... living off the glory of a golden age that, by 1994, had passed... making it even lamer than the real thing. Suffice it to say that this is the kind of story where all you have to do to make every complexity resolve itself is to kill the bad guy. No amount of incidental destruction accompanying that achievement is ever a problem. (Aw crap, did I accidentally give away the surprise ending?)

Sooooooo, what’s it like in that bold future, what great accomplishments will mankind have achieved by the fouth year of the twenty-first century? Will they have flying cars? No, but they will have self-driving cars... with vacuformed plastic coverings all over their bodies and most of the window glass. And voice-operated TV sets. And 3D virtual goggle porn. Other than that, things are pretty much unchanged. Which strikes me as a failure of imagination; anyone with a real appreciation for the rapid pace of scientific advancement ought to know that by 2004 we’ll probably have fusion power plants, a moon base, wisecracking robot sidekicks, smellovision, and other wonders we can’t even speculate about now.

Of course, we can’t carp too much about the lack of flying cars if they have achieved time travel. Which, by the way, is accomplished with a rocket sled. Which emits lots of noise and fire, but doesn’t really travel any faster than a DeLorean. Yet to come back, they conveniently need nothing but a pocket pushbutton. Which not only slurps them back into the future, but folds them nicely to fit back in the sled, which doesn’t arrive in the past and is conveniently stored in limbo while they’re away.

The movie is mostly about various fights, of course. Fights which naturally all highlight Jean-Claude’s amazing nimbleness and lower-body flexibility. I swear, what he can do with his hip joints is downright... womanly. Yeah, I want to be a master of mighty martial mayhem too, sign me up for that ballet training, just like the Belgian Bruiser.

Can he act to go with it, you ask? Nah.

This is the sort of film where he gets the drop on a guy beating up his younger self, punches and kicks him multiple times in assorted impressive ways, and finally grabs his head and breaks his neck... all while holding a gun. Why not just shoot him in the first place?? I guess it’s against the rules of Belgian ballet bushido.

His character is named Walker, which seems an odd name for someone with a thick Francophonic accent. He plays both 1994 and 2004 versions of Walker. The difference between them isn’t lines or graying or anything, it’s that the 2004 Walker has an atrocious pompadour-mane reminiscent of, I don’t know, Judd Nelson.

So, final conclusion, if this is his best movie, I’ll break out in a cold sweat if you threaten to show me one of his below-average ones.

But what does John Stanley say?

marvelous special effects... fascinating fantasy adventure... high-class production values... Van Damme rises to the acting challenge and comes through with a panache that matches his martial-arts prowess.