Timecop: I Don't Give a Van Damme

Walter Rhein

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Still from 'Timecop' 37:19

Yeah, it’s the movie that JCVD gets into a situation that only doing the splits will save him. Actually, that’s every JCVD movie. Fortunately, JCVD is history’s best on-screen doer of the splits. He’s the splits GOAT, he’s in the HOF!

“How can you get into a situation where doing the splits can save your life?” you might wonder. Glad you asked!

In Timecop (1994), the ever flexible and mostly incomprehensible Jean-Claude Van Damme plays a Timecop named Walker. (Maybe instead of Timecop they should have gone with Timeranger?) Anyway, he’s enjoying a nap on his couch when he’s attacked by two typical 80’s henchmen, although one of them isn’t Al Leong (they must have ran out of money getting Ferris Bueller’s girlfriend to star in the film…also Timecop is from the 90s). One of the henchman has some sort of stupid electric gun and he snarls something incomprehensible about “50,000 Volts.” Well, during the fight, Walker knocks over a jug of water and then he’s laying on the ground and he sees the water is spreading out to cover the henchman’s feet.

“Ah-ha!” you’re thinking. “He’ll just spring up from the floor into a perfect sitting splits suspended on his counter top EXACTLY when the henchman shoots at him, and the electricity will travel through the water and kill the henchman.”

And that’s what happens. The lesson to take from Timecop is that you should always check to see if you’re standing in water before you operate a lethal taser. And you should be more flexible.

The film opens upon a Civil War era scene.

“What’s going on?” my daughter asked.

“There’s going to be a time crime.”

“Don’t give it away!”

“The film is called TIMECOP! Of COURSE there is TIME CRIME!”

Timecop is the kind of 90s trash that sits in the back of your mind nestled among other items that are truly worthy of nostalgia. You probably watched the advertisements during the commercial breaks of MacGyver, and then had to wait for the big, ugly VCR box to appear on a shelf indicating its availability at your local video store. Then you watched it, were mildly disappointed, went off to do something fun and some of that fun memory got conflated with your memory of Timecop. The bottom line is you got confused and 26 years later you thought Timecop would be a fun family movie for quarantine.

It’s not. Mainly due to all the full frontal nudity.

But then again, time travel movies are always fun. They always have a dumb set of rules and try to avoid paradox. In Timecop, “the same matter cannot occupy the same space.” It’s important that everybody watches this film so they can better enjoy Jean-Claude Van Johnson (if you don’t know what that is click here). You know the “matter” line is important because when they say it they stare off into the distance to utter the fundamental Timecopy truth of Timecopness, and you just know somebody’s going to go back in time and touch himself eventually.

Jean-Claude grins his way through the film and has sex with everybody. You always get the impression none of that’s in the script, it was just that JCVD just compulsively had sex with everyone so the director decided to film it.

The full frontal nudity is totally unnecessary. You’d think they would have cut it just to get the coveted PG-13 rating that this film desperately needs. The nudity happens when a creepy, greasy computer guy looses himself in virtual reality right in the middle of his work day. At least the film nailed that prediction about how people will behave at work in the future.

The great thing about 80’s films is the villains. They’re all so unabashedly evil that you can’t help rooting for them. They’re just jerks on every level, always slamming doors in people’s faces and using up all the toilet paper without replacing the roll. After a while, they start to become comical. I love these guys!

Ron Silver plays the evil Senator McComb who wants to be president. Yeah, he’s behind all the time hi-jinks that make Walker’s life miserable. He’s orchestrating a bunch of time crimes so he can make enough money for his campaign. It’s all laughable until he totally nails the future with uncanny precision with this line of dialogue:

“This country’s going down the drain because of the special interests. We need someone in the white house who is so rich he doesn’t have to listen to anybody. When I’m in office, it’s going to be like the 80s again, top 10 percent will get richer, the other 90 percent can immigrate to Mexico where they can live a better life.”

I swear to god he says this. They got it exactly right.

What they didn’t get right was the futuristic design for self-driving cars.

Anyway, JCVD flips and twirls and somehow always thinks it’s easier to kick people in the face than punch them. There’s one glorious scene where right in the middle of a gunfight, he runs behind a bunch of red barrels that are labeled “Highly Flammable.” Now, I’ve never been in a gunfight, but, somebody help me out, isn’t that the WORST place to go and seek cover? But he doesn’t just seek cover, he gets on a forklift that has two more highly flammable barrels, then he slowly lifts up the forklift as he’s being shot at, then he dumps one of the barrels onto the gunman, and only THEN does a spark ignite the liquid.

Yeah, I think that falls into the category of what not to do.

Anyway, JCVD does his thing, poor special effects abound, the Timecopy rules of Timecopness are obeyed, and equilibrium is restored. You’re welcome, I just saved you the bother of watching it.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI
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