There are certain things in life that are guilty pleasures. Eating ice cream out of the tub, sneaking the last of the Christmas chocolates, or licking cake mix off a spoon. They all count.
My guilty pleasure is watching movies that star 90s action stars. If I see anything starring Steven Seagal or Jean-Claude Van Damme on the TV, I have to stop on that channel and watch it, no matter how many times I’ve seen it or, in some cases, how awful it is.
Luckily, Timecop isn’t one of the movies that fall into the awful pile. In fact, it’s pretty enjoyable, and has finally been given a bit of a dust-off and released on Blu-ray.
In 1994, Max Walker (Van Damme) is a run-of-the-mill cop who is approached to be part of a new task force out to ensure that time travel is policed safely, and that nobody uses the technology for their own gain or to change the course of history. Before he starts the job, his wife Melissa (Mia Sara) is killed (for seemingly no reason) when the couple are attacked at their home.
Ten years later, and Walker is a key member of the Time Enforcement Commission (TEC). But all is not as it seems, as the senator in charge of the project, Aaron McComb (Ron Silver) is using time travel to fund his presidential campaign. When Walker’s partner refuses to testify against McComb, Walker decides to go after him himself, which leads back to the fateful day in 1994 when his wife died – the attack wasn’t so random, after all.
I’ve always thought of Timecop as a bit of a bastard child of The Terminator, and viewing the film 16 years later, it is actually pretty obvious where it got the majority of its plot from. However, there is a bit of a twist, and rather than facing time travelling robots, the threat is a lot closer to home.
The plot poses an interesting question: if you could time travel, how could you police it, and stop people going back and changing things? What if Hilter was taken out before World War II? Would something bigger and more destructive and evil take its place?
Happily, though, the movie never really delves into those deep sorts of questions, and instead focuses on the greed of people, and how far they will go to ensure they get what they want. It also focuses on how many different ways Van Damme can kick ass.
The first thing I would suggest not to do is to try to follow the story, as the timelines are all over the place, and there are plot holes as big as your head. You’ll also have to suspend your belief somewhat – even in 1994, I think it may have been a push to believe that, in ten years’ time, we would all own self-driving cars that look like something a Blue Peter presenter made.
However, these two bugbears do not stop Timecop being a very entertaining movie. You have the classic good-versus-evil battle with Ron Silver taking almost pantomime-villain delight as Senator McComb, and Van Damme has never been better on the big screen than as the tormented Walker in a role that finally got the critics off his back for his rather hit-or-miss acting skills.
Action-wise? Well, he didn’t get the nickname The Muscles From Brussels for nothing, and the fight scenes (of which there are plenty) don’t fail to impress.
What is also impressive is the film’s high-def upgrade. The film itself stands up very well, and the transfer, bar the odd scene that is slightly fuzzy around the edges, can hold its head up high with other early-90s movies. The 5.1 surround soundtrack also isn’t awful, but isn’t exceptional, and I was hoping for a bit more in fairness.
What is key to the enjoyment of this film, though, is the fact that it’s not ashamed of being exactly what it is – an out-and-out action film. There’s no overly-complicated plot, and the cast isn’t exactly stellar, but it doesn’t matter, because you find yourself caught up in it and cheering for the good guy, and hoping everything works out okay for him in the end.
It’s a shame that these type of films are not really made anymore other than for the straight-to-DVD market, as sometimes all you want to do on a Friday night is go down to the local cinema and enjoy a movie that lets you switch your brain off and go with the flow.
Timecop wasn’t ever going to win an Oscar, but you’ll be hard pressed to find any fault with its entertainment value, and it’s worthy of a place on any action fan’s shelf.