Review 1,000!!! Timecop (1994)

Thank you, dear reader, for sticking with me through 1,000 reviews. I presume none of you have been foolish enough to read them all, but if I’ve provided some entertainment or given some recommendations while indulging in something I’d happily do for my own amusement (watch and think about old movies) then I’m satisfied.

I write this as the Oscar nominations have just been announced, and I had something of a revelation while looking at the list. Apart from “Get Out”, which is a work of genius, I don’t really have much interest in the sort of thing which gets nominated for Oscars, gets whatever serious column inches remain, and so on. While I’m sure they’re…fine? (apart from “Darkest Hour”, Churchill was a monster and any historical movie which does not say that isn’t worth engaging with), they’re just not for me. Or, one would assume, you – hypothetical reader of a thousand reviews of slasher movies, SyFy Channel originals, kung fu classics and baffling so-bad-they’re-good-uns.

I’ve tried to bring my personal political views (socialist, feminist, anti-war) to bear on most of the reviews I’ve written. It’s fine, I think, to enjoy works of entertainment while not subscribing to their occasionally neanderthal views, and in fact having an honest critical relationship with them – cast your mind back to the movies of Jackie Chan, which are disgusting in their treatment of women while at the same time being fun action-packed romps. Or, any movie from the 80s and their treatment of non-whites and non-straights. I try and fight for a world where we won’t even think of making stuff like the ISCFC reviews, ever again.

Which is a strange introduction to review 1000, a movie I’m certain I’ve seen before but didn’t remember anything about. Jean-Claude Van Damme is on my mind at the moment, with his superb (if unfortunately cancelled) show “Jean-Claude Van Johnson” currently on Netflix, and I recently showed “JCVD” to my wife. She was legitimately amazed, as was I (again), and it was a real disappointment he didn’t keep moving down that path into meatier roles in bigger-budget movies. Still, the mainstream’s loss is our gain…and that doesn’t really apply here as “Timecop” was made long before all that, while he was still in the middle of his first flush of almost-A-list fame.

There’s a really decent cold open, which also immediately lets us know it was filmed in Canada, with local talent. It’s 1863, and a solitary stranger holds up a Confederate transport carrying gold; when they refuse to hand over the money, he pulls out a future-pistol and kills em all. The stranger? Callum Keith Rennie (“Twitch City”, “Due South”, and the greatest one-season guest star of all time in “Californication”); and the soldier? Ian Allinson, whose credit list is every bit as long and varied. But we never see either of them again, as we’re taken to the present, where we see Senator McComb (Ron Silver, a superb villain) almost visibly get aroused when asked to be on a committee overseeing the Time Enforcement Commission, created to police the newly invented crime-opportunity that is time travel.

JCVD is Walker, happily married to Melissa (Mia Sara), and she’s murdered by a posse of people with the most ludicrous mullets imaginable, just as he’s ready to start his new job as a TEC Agent. Flash forward to 2004! I know you kind-of have to make the future fairly close to the present when you’re dealing with the same actors, but I can’t believe they expected us all to be driving round in weird white plastic car-looking things, firing sci-fi guns, in only ten years. Anyway, we get a flavour of the world of stories you could tell with this premise as Agent Walker goes back to the Depression to stop a guy from the future making a killing on the Stock Exchange.

The story starts quickly and flows really well from there, I think – as Senator McComb is very obviously the villain from the very beginning, but it’s all about trying to work out what his plan is and how he’s trying to do it. All the while, JCVD is fighting off assassination attempts in both present and past, trying to keep the world together.

There is, of course, no attempt made to deal with the mound of paradoxes inherent in time travel. First and foremost, the TEC has no interest, seemingly, when agents come back from the past and something has very obviously changed – or perhaps they did once but someone went back and changed it? Argh! But yes, an agency that dealt with time travel would care, a little bit, about what happened to their returning agents. They have a device that registers “time ripples”, and that’s good enough for them and me.

What’s perhaps most interesting to our 2018 eyes is how closely this movie predicted the rise of Donald Trump. While Senator McComb is a relatively normal human, and not a bag of garbage like the thing currently sat in the White House, he’s aware that the person with the most money to spend always wins elections, and is solely interested in power for its own sake, with no sense of what he wants to do when he gets there. One line goes “I just need money, not the truth” and it could almost have emerged from the mouth of 45.

The fights are excellent, JCVD does the splits (twice), the ending is pleasant and satisfying if a little odd (wouldn’t someone have made a note of the day he was due back from his last assignment and prepared more of a reception for him? Like, “here’s all the stuff you missed in the last decade, thanks for saving us even if we don’t really understand what went on” or something like that.

Did you know this was based on a comic, and the people who wrote the comic also had a hand in the script? Well, I presume JCVD also influenced a few things, as he never struck me as a man who was shy about putting his view forward. Seriously, how did he ever become a star, given how many people he pissed off on the way up? Oh, and direction was classier than normal for a JCVD movie of the era, being handled by Peter Hyams (“2010”, “Running Scared”, and “The Star Chamber”, among many others).

It’s a lot of fun, and that’s really what we’re interested in, I hope. There’s a superb villain, a modicum of chemistry between the two leads, interesting subplots, and not a single thing to trouble you 24 hours after watching it. Okay, there’s a rather gratuitous and unnecessary full-frontal shot of a porn actress (presumably) slapped in halfway through, but chop that three seconds out and you can even pretend it doesn’t exploit its female cast!

Thank you, again, for reading along with me. Please make time in your lives to do something you enjoy, even if the level of creativity just extends to mocking old movies. I love you, dear reader. Let’s do another thousand.

Rating: thumbs up

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