*. It’s hard to make a bad time-travel movie.
*. It’s impossible (I think) to make a time-travel movie that makes sense.
*. From these two premises it’s possible to conclude that (1) Timecop is a good movie (not a classic, but modestly entertaining), and (2) it doesn’t make any sense.
*. Why is it so hard to make a bad time-travel movie? I think because the idea is so inherently interesting. It’s such a fundamental human desire to turn back the clock, have a do-over, a chance to get it right. Plus it’s a bit of trickery that keeps our minds occupied with the various ramifications just enough so that we don’t notice other weaknesses in the story quite as much.
*. Those “various ramifications” are, of course, why time-travel movies don’t make sense. I will not get sucked into a discussion of the many paradoxes and unanswered questions this film leaves us with, like why there aren’t two Max Walkers at the end of the film, why they have to go into the future in a rocket-car that doesn’t go with them, why returning to the present is so much easier than going back into the past, why the same matter occupying the same space has the effect of turning people into strawberry jam, or why it’s so hard to police time travel when there are only two time-travel machines in existence (and only one that anyone is aware of, so that there shouldn’t be any problem in the first place). This is all just nonsense, and everyone (the screenwriter, the producer, the audience) knows it.
*. Suffice it to say that time-travel technology can be put to nefarious purposes if it gets into the wrong hands. Here the wrong hands are those of Senator McComb, played by Ron Silver.
*. McComb seems a little too sleazy to make it all the way to the top, but his platform does have a familiar ring to it. “The country’s gone down the drain because of the special interests. We need someone in the White House who’s so rich that he doesn’t have to listen anybody. . . . When I’m in office it’s going to be just like the 80’s. Top 10% will get richer and the other 90% can emigrate to Mexico where they can live a better life.” Are we living in the alternative reality where this guy won? Things are a lot worse than they were in the ’80s, at least in terms of what McComb is talking about.
*. I noted in my notes on Bloodsport how rare it was at the time (1988) to run a couple of words together without a hyphen before the Internet era. And here we are again in 1994, when it was starting to be more in vogue. Shouldn’t Max be a “time cop”?
*. I also noted in my notes on Bloodsport how poor the fight choreography was. That’s a problem here as well. They try and get around it with lots of quick editing and shooting the fight scenes mostly in the dark, but I was still disappointed in how stilted and awkward most of the fights played out. Despite being a genuine martial artist, I’m not sure Jean-Claude Van Damme was that great at selling a fight on film. He was mostly built for posing and doing the splits.
*. Not that this matters much. This isn’t a martial arts movie. It’s a very simple sci-fi action flick.
*. Nice digs that Max and his young wife have moved into. As Roger Ebert noted, it’s just “the kind of turreted, gabled, four-story Gothic manor that, as we all know, is the typical residence of Washington, D.C. policemen.”
*. How cheesy is it that everything in the future (that is, the year of our lord 2004) has stayed the same except now we drive around in computerized space buggies?
*. I wonder whatever happened to Mia Sara. I guess she never made it as a big star, but she’s very good here.
*. I thought more might have been done with having two Van Dammes at the end fighting the bad guys, but for some reason they didn’t play that angle up as much. I’m not sure why. Perhaps they felt it was ground they’d already gone over in Double Impact (where Van Damme played long-separated twin brothers).
*. This was Van Damme’s biggest hit (of movies where he played the starring role). Afterwards he would go quickly downhill, only to reappear in curious, ironic form in JCVD (2008) and The Expendables 2 (2012).
*. He might have learned something from the success of Timecop, and realized that all he needed to do was work on projects just a little different from the run-of-the-mill chop-sockies that he kept churning out, to swiftly diminishing returns. Timecop is by no stretch of the imagination a great movie, but it is a decent entertainment that still plays reasonably well more than twenty years later. Of all Van Damme’s films, aside from the outlier JCVD, I think it’s the only one worth revisiting.