Year: 1994

Production: Largo / JVC / Signature / Renaissance / Dark Horse

Director: Peter Hyams

Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mia Sara, Ron Silver, Bruce McGill, Gloria Reuben, Scott Bellis

Screenwriter: Mark Verheiden

From a story by Mark Verheiden and Mark Richardson based on their comic series

98 minutes; Color

Hyams handles Timecop with exactly the expected ordinary skill, never treating Van Damme to the kind of semi-mythic treatment given him by John Woo on Hard Target (1993) though allowing for more specifically Jean-Claude bits of business, like a leap to do a mid-air splits in the kitchen to avoid being electrocuted. With a blithely paradox-heavy time travel scenario, nipping at the heels of the The Terminators and the Back to the Futures, this is exactly the sort of film a comic book company eager to expand into features would come up with.

In 1994, following the invention of a time travel process, America establishes the Time Enforcement Commission, a police which will prevent miscreants tampering with the past. As the ambitious Senator Silver volunteers to head the TEC committee, Washington policeman Van Damme is attacked by mysterious hit men from the future who murder his wife (Sara). In 2004, the embittered Van Damme is a timecop and Silver has been subverting the past to finance a presidential campaign. Learning of a major anomaly in 1994, Van Damme is sent back to discover Silver conspiring with his younger self to fix the future so he will win the election and sees a chance to thwart the villain and set his life straight. In a typical bit of have-it-all plotting, the finale finds the hero returned to his present to find all the likeable characters who have been killed returned to life without even a memory of the threat posed by the vanished Silver.

While its time-twisting is on a superficial tv movie level, Timecop is a worthy post-modern action movie. It is so confident of its conventions that it can spring surprises: Reuben, a young black woman with an attitude, is so clearly in the spirit of feisty ethnic partners Arnie is often given that it is a genuine shock that she turns out (albeit shakily) to be a wrong 'un. And there is a "Scenes We'd Like to See" moment when Van Damme thinks of the appropriate witticism ("freeze") a scene after he dispatched a vile baddie by icing his arm and breaking him apart with a far less satisfying one-liner. Effects-wise, the movie has little new to offer, though the paradox-driven disposal of the villain as his two incarnations wind together in a time implosion is suitably gruesome in a fairly fresh manner.

The Overlook Film Encyclopedia - Science Fiction

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