Science? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Science! J.B. Rockwell returns in her next monthly installment of her Bad Movie Recap & Review. This time she’s taking on that spiffing example of the 80s/90s action movie flick: Timecop. Sit back, relax, and enjoy. (Check our her previous posts on Lake Placid and Flash Gordon, too!)
Ham, Cheese, and Van Damme
By J.B. Rockwell
Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Van Damme. They’re the action flick kings. Big guys with heavy accents (okay, so Stallone had more of a slur) who kick copious amounts of ass and toss out not-quite-funny quips. The film industry’s equivalent of the 80s hairband: everyone knows them, most people love them, all but a few are too embarrassed to admit they love their bad-good movies.
And there have been many over the years. I haven’t actually catalogued everything these three guys have made between them, but collectively they’ve starred in dozens of films (sometimes together), the majority of which were released during that magical period between the mid-80s and mid-90s when these three guys could do no wrong. Granted, they’re still making movies (fewer now, and mostly lumped in with Statham, or Diesel, or one of their younger, action flick successors) but these newer films don’t quite have the allure of the 80s/90s era flicks. They try too hard. The cheese factor isn’t quite right. Instead of being bad-good, their just bad-bad more often than not, and where’s the fun in that?
So, screw those newer films. I wanted a classic for my next bad movie review. I mean, honestly—it was only a matter of time before I picked one of the many, many, many 80s/90s era SSVD films anyway. The hard part was narrowing the wealth of choices on offer to just one actor, and one film. So, I cheated (because I’m lazy, and indecisive) and had Twitter help me out. After an exhaustive (read: one day), highly scientific (it wasn’t, not at all) and (not) statistically significant polling of the Twitterverse population, I chose that chestnut of actiony goodness: Timecop, starring the Muscles from Brussels, Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Side Note: The choice of Van Damme may or may not have been influenced by the prominence of the Van Damme Van in Sense8. Okay, it was. It totally was.
The TImecop Plot:
When the ability to travel through time is perfected, a new type of law enforcement agency is formed. It’s called Time Enforcement Commission or TEC. A cop, Max Walker, is assigned to the group. On the day he was chosen, some men attack him and kill his wife. Ten years later Max is still grieving but has become a good agent for the TEC. He tracks down a former co-worker who went into the past to make money. Max brings him back for sentencing but not after telling Max that Senator McComb, the man in charge of TEC, sent him. Max has his eye on McComb.
Note: One of my favorite things with JCVD movies is the explanations the writers/director come up with for his very obvious accent, and the fact that—despite said accent—he almost always has a very blandly American and not at all accenty sounding name. Like Max Walker. Oh, and for the record, Timecop doesn’t explain his accent. They just make a lame joke about said accent to acknowledge it exists. Lazy ass bastards.
Jean-Claude Van Damme (Known for high kicks and doing mostly naked splits) as Max Walker: a time traveling cop who travels time to protect time in case sneaky no-good-nicks try to steal it and change the past.
Mia Sara (AKA, Ferris Bueller’s girlfriend) as Melissa Walker: Walker Texas Time Traveler’s fair wifey who swans around doing nothing at all useful while simultaneously getting into situations that require Sir Hubsalot to constantly save her.
Ron Silver (A guy most people don’t know by name but instantly recognize as a 1990s movie staple, mostly filling roles as smarmy and often drug sniffing business guys or politicians—which he definitely was in this movie ) as Senator McComb: a very, very bad politician with aspirations to be President that can only be satisfied by breaking the law and stealing from the past. Don’t ask, it doesn’t make much sense. Though Trump would probably do this…
Bruce McGill (Another name you don’t know, but face you do—best known as being MacGyver’s best friend and erstwhile buddy) as Matuzak: Walker Texas Time Traveler’s boss and (sometimes, depending on the iteration of Future-Now he returns to) friend. Mostly he’s set dressing and there to show when things have changed in the future because McComb messed up something in the past.
Gloria Ruben (Whom I most remember for her stint on ER) as Fielding: Walker Texas Time Traveler’s replacement partner, who immediately turns her coat and joins up with McComb, only to immediately regret it and soon after end up dead. Basically, there is no woman in this movie who is shown doing anything useful.
Timecop Budget & Box Office Info:
- Release Date: 16 September 1994
- Budget: $27M
- Box Office Sales: $44M US, $100M worldwide
Sequels & Crossovers:
Timecop the film was followed by a 1997 TV series of the same name which ran for all of nine episodes before getting shit-canned. Perhaps because it didn’t star Van Damme. Also, they changed the title character’s name to Jack Logan. I can only assume because Walker Texas Ranger was no longer as popular or well-known and the tacit tie to Marvel’s Logan (AKA Wolverine) was more appealing. Yes, I’m spitballing all this. That’s what I do.
In 2010, Universal Pictures announced an upcoming remake of the original Timecop, which I expect to star Vin Diesel. Or maybe Cumberbatch since he’s in like every movie these days. FYI: that’s more spitballing. I am in no way, shape or form a Hollywood insider.
Timecop was originally based on a comic which was adapted into a two-issue comic book series of the same name.
A series of tie-in novels by author Dan Parkinson published in 1997–1999 featured the Jack Logan character from the television series.
The Story (in a Nutshell):
Warning: Spoilers. Proceed with caution.
Apropos of a film about time travel, the movie film starts off in 1863. Obvious, right? Why start in the future, when you can start in the past?! Anway, we’re presented with a group of drippy, wet Confederate soldiers on horseback (they’re wet because it’s pissing down rain, by the way—a backdrop repeatedly used as set dressing in this film) who are hauling gold to General Lee. Surprise-surprise, they run into a tooth-short, horseless doofis who wants said gold for himself.
One against six and that one with no horse—no chance right? Well, SURPRISE MOTHERF-[[beep!]]! He’s got a couple of high-tech, super automatic guns equipped with fricken laser sights and he cheeseholes the lot of them, and absconds with their gold. BWA-HA-HA!
Cut to 1994 (or present day since the movie was made in 1994, though later on, 2004 becomes present day and—never mind. Time travel. Yes-yes, time travel). So, in 1994, we get to spy on DC political meeting where more doofises (AKA senators and representatives from super-secret and/or shady government agencies) are meeting to discuss a scientist whose invented time travel. Here we learn that going back in time and changing anything can have catastrophic results.
Hmm… ya think someone’s going back in time to do something catastrophic? I DO!
Later, still in 1994, we meet cop type Max Walker and his lovely wife Melissa, enjoying a romantic stroll through a 90s era mall (Awww, mall love). Now we learn two things: (1) Maxie boy has been offered a job with the new agency called the Time Enforcement Commission (TEC), and (2) he’s a high-kicking badass and do-gooder who can stop a rollerblading purse snatcher with nothing more than a few terse words and a raised boot. My hero! *swoons*
We also experience the first of many, many ham-fisted plot points in this loveliest of lovely malls, when High-Kicks McBootsAlot happens to notice a couple of suspicious-looking, sneaky no-good-nicks spying on him and wifey. This being the type of movie it is, he of course ignores them (and his bad guy alerting radar), which (also of course) leads to bad things later.
Anywho, cut to the Walker residence and some sexy times in the boudoir, followed by cuddles amongst the pillows. Wifey Melissa is working herself up to tell Maxie boy something IMPORTANT, but the phone rings calling Max into work, so he girds his loins and heads outside before she can spill the beans.
Oh yeah. It’s raining. And the power’s out. DO YOU THINK SOMETHING BAD WILL HAPPEN? Also, do you think that unspoken something will be important later?!
Well, you’re right. In both cases. Those creepy guys from the mall are waiting outside to kick Walker’s ass (in the rain) and be really, really mean to his poor wifey, whom he’s abandoned inside the no power house. After an old fashioned ass-whoopin’, the bad guys shoot Walker and leave him for dead.
But this is Van Damme! And Van Damme never dies. Also, bulletproof vest.
He picks himself up and runs for the house to save screaming wifey, only to have it explode in his face, killing wifey and the bad guys inside.
Noooooooo! Wife! What were you going to tell him?!
The Rest of It:
From the house ‘splosion, we head back to the past again. This time to 1929 and the stock market crash. A shystery businessman enters with—gasp!—a newspaper from the future??!!! Also, he pulls out a Walkman and rocks out while perusing said paper against a 1929 paper—just in case you missed the fact that the USA Today they showed is not, in fact, from 1929.
Apparently, shyster guy was sent back in time to buy up stocks on the cheap that will be worth millions in the future. Unfortunately, that’s against the law.
Enter TEC Officer Walker with a snazzy new hairdo—one of those quasi-mullets that’s designed to make it clear he’s a future version of that old Walker that got his ass kicked ten years ago. In 2004, Walker Texas Time Traveler is the TECs number one badass unlawful time traveler take down dude, and he’s fixin’ to take down this particular dude hard.
But first, he’s gotta beat up some muscle—this is Van Damme, after all—and show off his kicks and splits.
Fight! Fight! Fight!
Walker wins handily, of course, and—through the power of more ham-fisted plotting involving Biz Guy Shyster spilling his guts—we learn that weasel boy used to be a TEC officer before getting lured into the high stakes game of time hopping bingo-cum-time cheating. And that the mastermind behind all the unlawful time travel, money stealing, past changing stuff is—are you ready?—a US Senator named Alan McComb.
A crooked politician?! Better ya never saw that coming!
And his end game? Well, apparently, Senator McComb is sending people back in time to steal money and make investments to fund his Presidential campaign because the mean old Government won’t fund it themselves. *sad trombone*
Walker hauls The Weasel back to the future/present for justice—AKA, execution, since time travel with intent to alter the future is considered a crime—after which we learn that The Weasel (real name Atwood) used to be Walkie-Talkie’s partner. We also get to meet bad guy Senator McComb when he arrives for a surprise visit of TEC HQ—no discernible reason given, but it does offer a ham-fisted opportunity for Walker and McComb to trade death stares and make is 100% clear they don’t like each other. Despite the fact they’ve never met before.
What the heck. If we can have love at first sight, why not hate at first sight. You get down with your bad self, Timecop.
Oh, besides the death stares, we also learn that it’s disastrous for a person to go back in time and encounter a previous version of themselves. So you just know that will happen at some point.
Ham. So much ham in this script.
Blah-blah-blah, stuff-stuff-stuff and we skip to Walker at home drinking while watching an old tape (yes, tape) of his wife, followed by a passed out and mostly naked Walker being woken by bad guys invading his house. You know what that means…
TIME FOR SOME HIGH KICKS AND FIGHT-FIGHT-FIGHT!
In the scene everyone remembers (and which I’m convinced made this movie the most popular of Van Damme’s many flicks), Walker knocks over a watercooler and hops onto the kitchen counter, executing an impressive (and painful looking) straddle counter split in the split-second (sorry, I’m so sorry) before one of the bad guys triggers his 50,000 volt taser (we know it’s 50,000 volts because he takes the time to tell us…sigh), missing splitzville Walker by inches, but managing to directly connect with a pool of water from the knocked over bubbler.
Bad guy gets crispy fried and Walker somehow unsplits without electro-mo-cuting himself, at which point we are introduced to Walker’s new (female) partner Fielding (who he didn’t know about because no one told him and therefore instantly dislikes). But there’s a job to be done so he swaggers off to suit up, leaving his trashed apartment for TEC HQ and a very plasticky looking sled/pod/cockpit thing that they evidently use for time traveling.
Let me pause here for a short diatribe. I’m not what you’d call a heavy science girl. I like science and I love sci-fi, but you can give me a bare bones explanation of the science behind something and I’ll mostly be happy. It doesn’t even have to be completely correct science, just something that’s plausible and actually does explain how a science-based contraption that is central to the plot of your story actually works. In fact, I’ll go a step further: claim it’s all magic—great! I’ll buy that too. But if you’re going to make a movie about time travel and not explain how the machine that facilitates said time travel works? Yeah, not happy. Really not happy.
And that’s just what the wunderkinds behind this movie did. Seems they all watched Back to the Future and essentially copied the most basic idea behind the DeLorean: construct pod-type vessel, stick people inside, make it go really fast and—poof!—instant time travel! Unfortunately, the Timecop time travel pod-sled-thing has no Mr. Fusion to power it, and no discernable sciency based system to make things go. What it does have is a big ass jet engine on the back, two people strapped into seats, and a couple of nerd technicians watching computer screens and acting nervous.
News flash: none of that explains how said pod-sled-thing time travels. Oh, and for unexplained reasons, even though they launch through time in the pod-sled-thing, they arrive in the past without it, hit a button on a whosy-whatsis they carry to return to the future/present, and somehow return home inside the pod-sled-thing.
WTF??!! This is like Sisterhood of the Time Traveling Pants but with a pod-sled-thing instead of pants, and pants that somehow discorporeate and exist in stasis in between time until recalled, and somehow… spew out and suck back in their passengers as they transit through between-time space.
Note: That non-sensical explanation is more science than this movie offers to explain anything about how time travel works in this vision of the future. Err, present. Err, future-present.
Now, where was I? Oh yeah.
Even worse, our hero and his pod-sled-thing belong to a government funded time police force that, in theory, has millions if not billions of dollars at its disposal to build these super high-tech time traveling pod-sled-things, and yet private citizens also seem able to build something similar using nothing more than their pocket cash and the cereal box tops they’ve saved up over the years. Granted, we never actually see the tech the bad guys use to time travel so maybe it’s really crappy compared to the government tech, but they do arrive via the same bubble blurp Walker Texas Time Traveller and Company use, and exit with the same lack of explanation. What I’m saying is it’s sloppy. More than that, it’s lazy. Time travel involves tech and—Van Damme movie or not—you can’t just gloss the tech over with a bubble blurp and think we won’t notice.
Okay. Here endeth the rant. Now back to the story.
Walker launches the sled-pod-thing taking himself and new partner Fielding back to 1994… again (ham-ham-ham, so many poor pigs killed to make this ham) where swap stories and start to bond before heading inside a warehouse with McComb’s name on the outside, and a Lincoln in the parking lot with a license plate that reads ‘SENATOR’.
*sniff-sniff* Smell that? That’s ham. So much ham. Really getting sick of ham.
Inside the warehouse, Future McComb confronts Past McComb to try and talk him out of accepting a buy out on his portion of a computer chip making company (one that’s connected to the time travel tech, natch). Luckily, Walker and his new partner intervene just in time to stop F-Comb from changing the past.
Or do they??
Nope! Fielding—who’s yet another McComb stooge—turns on Walker in a surprise twist pretty much everyone saw coming, and everything quickly goes to hell. After much fight-fight-fight involving unexplained hot steam pipes, and cold steam pipes, and barrels of explosive and flammable shit, F-Comb gets backed into a corner and—holy shit!—turns on Fielding, shooting her and leaving her for dead.
Our guy Walker, being the prince he is, abandons her, of course, tucking tail to run back to the future. Err, present. Whatever. 2004. A 2004 that’s obviously changed future thanks to F-Comb’s shenanigans. McComb himself now in charge of TEC and ordering it shut down.
OMG MCCOMB CHANGED THE FUTURE! WHO SAW THAT COMING? THE HAM, THAT’S WHO!
Blah-blah-blah, big revelation (I forget what it was, something about the non-existent science they skip over in this movie) and Walker steals the time sled, bubble blurping back to 1994 just before TEC HQ turns into a towering inferno. There he finds shot up Fielding in a hospital, sticks around long enough for her to express her remorse and how she wants to make things right, inexplicably goes to the lab to check out blood samples and—OMG!—finds one for his wifey labeled ‘pregnancy test’.
That’s right, pregnancy test. Remember that big news wifey never got a chance to share with Sir Hubsalot? Turns out momma’s got a wee kicker in her belly and now Walkies has a sad.
Unfortunately, there’s no time for bebbeh what-iffing because Fielding gets whacked in the hospital and Walker boy’s gotta run. And where does he run to? Why that long ago mall of course! Because we need another ham-fisted reminder of how this whole movie started.
After finishing all that, we end up back in the Walker house and get treated to an extended and mostly repeat version of ass-kicking, house ‘sploding opener. Except this time there’s TWO Walkers!
I’m gonna pause again for another short diatribe. Despite knowing what’s going to happen, F-Walk basically does nothing to stop it other than show up at the house himself. God forbid he makes it easy on himself and calls some reinforcements—like maybe a platoon of cops to help stop the bad guys. Nooooo. We’ve got to overly complicate this with a bunch of inside-outside, two Walkers at the same time business which somehow ends up with wifey on the roof (in the pouring rain…AGAIN) slipping and falling only to be saved by P-Walk who then (of course) sends her off her own, because how else is bad guy McComb supposed to capture her??!!
Okay-okay-okay. It’s a Van Damme movie, stop trying to apply logic. So we loop around and repeat the opening story—P-Walk gets beat into unconsciousness to take him out of the action, while F-Comb holds wifey hostage inside where he’s planted a bomb. What he doesn’t know is F-Walk has a surprise him: he called P-Comb and had him come over to the house. You know what that means? We finally get to see what happens when two versions of a person inhabit the same place at the same time!
Turns out, it’s ugly. F-Walk slings P-Comb into F-Comb, resulting in a very strange Vulcan body meld that dissolves them both into an icky, sticky goo.
Phew! Glad that’s dealt with. But wait! What about that bomb?
No time to diffuse it (despite all his other planning, F-Comb didn’t seem to plan his own exit without ‘sploding very well) so F-Walk scoops up wifey (who’s still being useless) and high tails it right before the house kersplodes dramatically, ditches her in yard, leaving her tenderly snuggled next to unconscious P-Walk and heads back to the future. Err, present. Whatever.
And in that future/present/whatever? No McComb. Seems he’s been missing for the last 10 years. TEC is all hunky-dory, Fielding’s alive and kicking, and wifey’s waiting for Walker at home (the same home that went boom, so evidently they rebuilt it to look exactly the same) with their precious, vest-wearing, bowl haircut-sporting kidlet.
Awww. Such a nice, happy ending for Splits Van Damme.
Despite all my criticisms, this is an enjoyable movie if you’re in the mood for a mid-1990s era action flick. The science is atrocious, the plot ham-fisted and forced to say the least, but Van Damme’s high kicking is on point, and the groan-worthy quips peppered throughout are only slightly wooden in their delivery delivery. One of Van Damme’s best? I’d say yes. If for no other reason than that counter split scene in his kitchen. That’s legend. Just… don’t get hung up on the science, okay? That’s shit. Probably the worst science in any movie I’ve come across. And that’s saying something.
- Bad Moving Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)
- Regular Movie Rating: 2 (out of 5)
McComb: You see, I’m an ambitious Harvard-educated visionary who deserves to be the most powerful man in the world and you… you’re a fucking idiot who never figured out that the only way to make anything of himself with all that fancy kicking was on Broadway.
Walker: Thanks for clearing that up.
Matuzak: [after catching Ricky with virtual reality porn] Damn it, Ricky, I catch you fucking this machine again, I’ll break your neck.
Ricky: Sorry, chief.
Walker: Looks like safe sex to me.
Walker: He must have read my mind.
Melissa: The way you speak English, he’d have to.
Lilyn G is the founder of Sci-Fi & Scary, and leader of the Coolthulhu Crew. She does book and film reviews for both genres the site focuses on. Her tastes run towards creature features, hard science fiction, and lots and lots of action. She also has a soft spot for middle-grade fiction that rears its head frequently.
She is also a co-founder of Ladies of Horror Fiction, though she has stepped down to regular crew level.
Feel free to chat her up on Twitter as long as you aren’t hitting her up to review your book.