Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision
Film Length: 81 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
Subtitles: English (Captioned), French, and Spanish
Audio: English - Dolby Digital 5.1
Due to my interest in (and practice of) the martial arts, I have watched a lot of really cheesy chop-socky flicks to check out the fight scenes over the years. I must come clean and admit that I have grown to like some of these movies upon repeated viewings, including many of Jean Claude Van Damme’s early efforts, as they not only feature some interesting fight scenes, but have also inspired me to train harder. To be sure, the storylines in films like Kickboxer, Marked for Death, The Perfect Weapon, or anything starring Don “The Dragon” Wilson take a backseat to the action sequences, and sometimes the set-up of the hero’s finishing technique, but they can still be enjoyable on some level. Seriously, I can’t be the only one to have to have sat through a film featuring Jeff Speakman, Cynthia Rothrock, or Billy Blanks on a sleepless night, can I?
Now I know I am probably amongst the minority of filmgoers on this, but I thoroughly enjoyed the first Timecop, which starred the aforementioned Jean Claude Van Damme. Out of all of his films, I think this may have been the best, and it even enjoyed moderate financial success upon its release way back in 1994, when the “muscles from Brussels” was a more bankable action star. Sure, you had to leave your brain on standby to avoid questioning the many plot holes in Timecop, but I thought the premise was interesting, and the fight scenes were well executed.
Inexplicably, after a nine-year hiatus, someone has decided we need a successor to Timecop, and offered up the direct-to-video Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision, an equally mindless, but far less entertaining, film fronted by Jason Scott Lee. The charismatic Mr. Lee plays Ryan Chan, an officer in the Time Enforcement Commission (TEC) tasked with protecting the present from persons intent on traveling back in time to alter past events. Of course, we cannot have a proper action movie without a nemesis for the hero to rough up at the end. In Timecop 2, officer Chan’s antagonist is Miller Branson (Thomas Ian Griffith), part of the “Society for Historical Authenticity”, a covert organization responsible for verifying history for the cops who serve in the TEC.
Apparently, Branson has his own ideas about what time travel should be used for. Specifically, he is obsessed with erasing some of history’s tragedies, which is a noble enough idea, but has the potential to drastically affect the present day (the year 2025 in this case). For example, Branson’s first “mission” is to murder Adolf Hitler before he carries out his legacy of genocide. Chan manages to foil this plan, but Miller subsequently escapes from prison and hatches a plot to exterminate timecops by killing their ancestors, thus freeing him to tinker with the past.
One of my main gripes with Timecop 2 is that Miller Branson, the film’s villain, is just not all that menacing. In fact, although he is clearly insane, he is trying to do good (in his own warped way) by righting some of the wrongs done in the past. Never mind the fact that Miller ignores the serious implications of his plans on the present, his heart is in the right place, making it somewhat difficult for me to hate him completely. Anyway, the Branson character is just not evil enough for me, and I thought Thomas Ian Griffith’s bland performance did not help matters any. Simply put, the emotional payoff that should be there when a hero overcomes amazing odds to defeat a loathsome villain does not exist in this film.
Another big problem I had with this movie is its absurd plotline. Granted, you have to be able to suspend disbelief somewhat when watching a film like this, particularly when it involves time travel, but Timecop 2 asked way too much of me in this regard. I don’t want to get to carried away with details, so let’s just say that if you are expecting logic, coherency, or a gripping story from Timecop 2, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
I do realize that most people (myself included) watch films like Timecop 2 not for the story, but to watch people who know (or appear to know) how to fight kick some ass. A good story is usually the icing on the cake. So with that in mind, how are the fight sequences? Sadly, the film falls short in this category as well, despite being choreographed by the fight choreographers from some of Bruce Lee’s films. Yes, the characters do pull off some pretty cool moves, but most of it has been done, and done much better, in other movies. To me, the majority of the fighting looks a lot like the mundane stunt-work of a made-for-TV movie, and with all of the exciting martial arts/action films out there already, this title just did not offer up enough quality action sequences for me to recommend it, even for a rental.
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
Although Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision is far from satisfying as a film, Universal has seen fit to give it a darn good transfer. Colors are vivid and well rendered, especially flesh tones, which are dead-on. The anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) image is nice and sharp, and background/fine detail is well above average. Likewise, black level is rock solid throughout, providing excellent shadow delineation even in the movie’s dimly lit environments.
The only real problem I had with the transfer was during the first scene where the characters travel back to the old west, in which the contrast appears too hot, but it almost looks like this might have been a stylistic choice rather than a flaw in the transfer. Either way, it was slightly bothersome. On the other hand, I did not notice any pixelization, dot crawl, or any other significant visual anomalies, so there is really not a whole lot to complain about (except for the movie that is).
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
Universal has taken a less-is-more approach to the audio for Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision, with Dolby Digital 5.1 being the only option. While this track is not quite reference quality, let me tell you that this aggressive mix kicks more ass than Jason Scott Lee does in the film! For starters, dialogue is well presented overall, although a hint of compression can be detected on occasion. In addition, dialogue is balanced well with the score and effects, and is easily discernable even during sequences with a lot of audio information in them.
The surrounds are quite active throughout the film, creating a nice, expansive soundstage that immerses the listener in what is transpiring onscreen. Low frequency response is very good as well, giving the punches, kicks, time travel effects, and gunshots room-rattling impact, although the bottom end does become a little boomy in places. All in all, the audio on this disk is very involving. Kudos to Universal for delivering an impressive Dolby Digital track for Timecop 2!!!
NOTE: All of the bonus material is in the full-frame (4:3) format.
**The Making of Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision:
The short featurette includes commentary by actors Jason Scott Lee, Tava Smiley, Thomas Ian Griffith, and Director Stephen Boyum (who used to be a stuntman). This is typical EPK material, nothing more, and features the actors talking about the qualities of their particular characters, choreographing the fight scenes, and the time-travel aspects of the film. It is certainly not the worst “Making-Of” I have ever seen, but unless you have a much different opinion on this film than I do, I really don’t think you will find this featurette to be particularly worthwhile.
** Between Takes: A Look at Life On the Timecop 2 Set with Tava Smiley:
Despite its title, this brief featurette is not really a look at life on the Timecop 2 set. Instead Tava Smiley strolls around the set and engages in silly, playful chats with Director Stephen Boyum and other members of the crew. Without question, there is not much substance here, but Tava Smiley is pretty likable, and one of the Production Designers runs through some of the set-decorating tricks used to create the time-travel device (including using items from Toys ‘R Us, of all places!), so it I thought it was worth the few minutes required to watch it once.
The fairly brief trailer for Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision, is included as an “extra”.
NOTE: There are also forced trailers at the beginning of the disc for Battlestar Galactica, Scarface, and 2 Fast 2 Furious. As usual, they cannot be bypassed, but they can be fast-forwarded through. I really hope that Universal reconsiders this practice….
For those who enjoy this movie, Universal recommends watching Timecop, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, The Fast and the Furious, and The Hitcher II: I’ve Been Waiting.
(on a five-point scale)
THE LAST WORD
Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision is not the worst action vehicle out there, but it is bad enough for me to recommend skipping it, despite the slick transfer and engaging Dolby Digital track that Universal has endowed it with. In my opinion, the only redeeming quality in this unnecessary sequel is a winning performance by Jason Scott Lee. Frankly, I think the presence of this jovial action star is the only thing preventing Timecop 2 from being completely abysmal. In the interest of fairness, I did make a genuine effort to keep from overanalyzing this film or placing expectations on it, but I just could not get past Timecop 2’s watered-down science-fiction elements and mediocre martial arts sequences. I almost wish I could travel back in time and pull the plug on this mess to get the 81 minutes of my life (not including the extras) I spent watching this back!
September 30th, 2003