As time-travel pictures go, this Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle is a passable but disappointing excursion into well-traveled terrain. TIMECOP fails to elicit either stirring action or a truly involving story from its intriguing premise.
In 1994, policeman Walker (Van Damme) witnesses several thugs murder his wife, Melissa (Mia Sara), in their Washington, D.C. home. Ten years later, Walker becomes an elite "timecop," assigned to prevent nefarious individuals from going back in time to change history. His most challenging
assignment: proving that Senator McComb (Ron Silver) has been financing his presidential campaign by dispatching time travelers to re-negotiate old business deals.
In order to foil McComb, Walker is sent back to 1994 Washington, where he also looks for Melissa. He discovers that on the very day she was murdered, Melissa was going to tell him she was pregnant. Walker returns to his home, hoping to intercept his wife's killers. With Melissa and his younger
self, he fights off the intruders. When McComb shows up with his younger self, Walker kills them both. Walker travels back to the future, to 2004, and happily discovers that McComb never became a powerful Senator and that Melissa and their son are waiting for him in their home.
Peter Hyams, a veteran director of uninspired sci-fi flicks (e.g., OUTLAND, 2010), fails to rise above an unimaginative script and skimpy production design. While the initial premise, credited to Mark Verheiden and executive producer Mike Richardson, contains endless possibilities for exciting storytelling, Verheiden's screenplay becomes increasingly convoluted, violating its own logic for the sake of narrative expediency. For example, only late in the film is it revealed that repeated trips to the past are possible, which undermines the
impact of previously altered events.
At least the film offers a lively, high-kicking performance from martial arts star Van Damme. TIMECOP was meant to be Van Damme's mainstream breakthrough, affording him a juicy part in a big-league production, but the actor was far better showcased in 1993's HARD TARGET, which allegedly turned
off action fans because of the arty touches of director John Woo. Here, the actor's thick Belgian accent and poor comic timing (he's no Schwarzenegger yet in the sound-bite department) intrudes upon his dramatic performance. Quite inadvertently, TIMECOP also makes Van Damme seem an ineffectual
hero by extending the action sequences to the point where his character loses, or nearly loses, his many fights. There is something both frustrating and poignant about the drawn-out climax, in which Walker's older self tries--but fails--to save his younger self from the villains (Van Damme fans
will note the split-screen Doppelganger effect borrowed from 1991's DOUBLE IMPACT).
The rest of the cast is perfunctory in their stock roles, including Mia Sara as the pretty but bland Melissa and Ron Silver as the evil McComb (although it's a relief to see Silver play a nasty politician instead of campaigning for one). The technical credits are at made-for-cable-TV level,
including the time-travel special effects, which are plainly borrowed from TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY. (Violence, nudity, sexual situations, adult situations, profanity.)
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