Studio: Universal Studios
US Rating: Rated R for strong brutal and bloody violence, some graphic sexuality, language and nudity.
Film Length: 1hr 38 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Video Resolution/Codec: 1080p/VC-1
Audio: English and French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Subtitles: Optional English SDH, French, Spanish
The Film - out of
Ah, the heyday of Jean-Claude Van Damme. Before his career dissolved into fading light of sub-par direct-to-DVD schlock, Van Damme was an instant draw for millions to a variety of action flicks that used his gymnastic-martial arts to fight the good fight. Whether he was fighting for honor in Bloodsport, humanities remnants in Cyborg or crazed super soldiers (as one himself) in the still good fun Universal Soldier, Van Damme used his flexible fighting skills and French accent to dispense evil-doers with a smack, a kick and a witty quip. Whether the sun setting on his career was from poor movie choices or simply the by-product of the end of the ‘Action Movie’ star (goodbye Arnie, Sly and Mr. Seagal), he has not been able to pull himself up out of his splits to get back on his feet. The last real attempt was in 1999’s dreadful Universal Soldier: The Return. Using sequels to get back in the limelight doesn’t work quite like it used to (Bruce Willis is the clear exception with his Die Hard ‘career resuscitation tool’).
Timecop, stars Van Damme, his most effects laden film, as Max Walker, a policeman of time travel. Once time travel has been accomplished, a police force would be needed to ensure that people did not go back in time and change anything that would irrevocably change and/or damage the timeline. Before he begins his new position with the ‘Time Enforcement Commission’ (TEC), he is attacked leaving his house and his wife is killed when the house explodes. Fast-forward 10 years and Max is still grieving the loss of his wife, he appears work weary but is, of course, the finest on the force. When he discovers a plot that involves a sitting Senator, Aaron McComb (Ron Silver), who is also a US Presidential candidate, the action ratchets up a notch as he discovers that his malevolent politician foe could erase him, and others, from history in his quest to manipulate the timeline for his own greed.
The film was released in 1994 and set, for the most part, in 2004. Silly to think that in just a mere 10 years everyone would be driving around in cars that looked like they were made from Legos and drove themselves, but minor quibbles like that aside, Timecop still manages to be an enjoyable 90’s action romp.
Peter Hyams, a veteran director with films like Relic, 2010, Outland and Capricorn One in his portfolio, has never been able to excite enough at the box office like the masters, but through the years he has been behind the camera on a number of moderately successful films that each have a distinct Hyam's look and feel. Timecop is no different. Hyams likes to keep it simple, typically selecting ordinary and mostly unremarkable techniques to shoot his films, but since he almost always serves as the cinematographer on his films too, each of them have come with a particular flavor that I have always enjoyed.
Timecop as an action film is pretty entertaining. The time travel concept, mixed with Van Damme’s bravado and your average ‘action movie sensibility’, comes across as a step up from the norm. It borrows the heart of its story from Ray Bradbury’s ‘A Sound of Thunder’, one of the greatest science fiction short stories of all time but has none of the literary flair or dramatic conscience of that earlier work. That short story was turned into a disastrously bad feature film in 2005 that perhaps six people went to see – and was also directed by Hyams).
This film also has plot holes that H.G Wells could fly his time machine through, but beyond that, there is more than enough contained in its 98 minutes to satiate a craving for some butt kicking marinated in some sci-fi sauce.
What does work is the element of fun this film has with the basic time travel concept, Van Damme doing what he does best and Ron Silver as the diabolical bad guy. Everyone knows that films like this work best when the bad guy is fun to watch, and here, Ron Silver nails the greedy and malicious nemesis perfectly. Gloria Reuben (ER) has a small role, as does Mia Sara, Bueller’s beautiful girlfriend in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off starring as Van Damme’s wife, who is unfortunate enough to get caught up in all the action.
For their release of this catalogue title, Universal Studios has conjured up a presentation of Timecop in its original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 in 1080p high definition and encoded VC-1. The image quality, overall, is excellent.
While mistreated in its standard DVD incarnation, Timecop looks positively superb by comparison, with strong colors and crispness this flick hasn’t seen since its theatrical run. Some minor issues exists such as excess grain during some visual effects sequences and a few times where the image was much darker than it needed to be, but all in all, this movie looks great on HD-DVD.
With an English and French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, Timecop has never sounded better. It isn’t perfect but with the pounding subwoofer that accompanies every smack, kick and punch, the ride through this movie sounds great. The deep heavy bass, occasional directional effects and warm sound to the dialogue are all positive elements, but there are some moments that sound a little flat and there really should have been a little more to the surrounds than just Mark Isham’s stock score. Overall, however, I was satisfied with the audio track even if it didn’t floor me.
Universal has never treated Timecop with much respect on DVD, so seeing it in HD glory is really quite the treat. This Van Damme action along with Sudden Death have always been high on my list of guilty pleasures and once the terrorists in an ice-rink flick makes it to the next generation format, I will be able to cross another precious bad movie of my secret list of movies I love to watch.
Seeing Van Damme do the splits in every fight scene he has and deliver saturatingly cheesy lines in his distinct accent makes me miss what he delivered in his prime. Even his less glamorous films, Hard Target and Double Impact still manage to please me when I catch them on Spike TV and the like, which leads me to believe we may be ready for another renaissance of sorts in the low-brow action flick arena. The peak of yesteryear, when Cobra, Predator, Out for Justice and Bloodsport were the perfect fix for brawn over brains at the movies, are long gone and recent films like The Marine, Walking Tall and Doom just don’t seem to cut it.
I think anyone who remembers Timecop with even the slightest grin will get a kick (pardon the pun) out of this one on HD-DVD, so go ahead and pick it up for a Van Damme good time.
Note: This movie spawned a short-lived TV show in 1997 that ran for 9 episodes and a Direct-to-DVD film in 2003 starring Jason Scott Lee, called Timecop: The Berlin Decision.