Cyberpunk Review » Timecop

January 25, 2007


Movie Review By: SFAM

Year: 1994

Directed by: Peter Hyams

Written by: Mike Richardson & Mark Verheiden

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Medium

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

Rating: 5 out of 10

Time Cop screen capture


Overview: In the annals of cheesy time travel movies, few are known better than Timecop, which cleared over 100 million in world wide box office gross. Starring martial arts star, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Timecop has decent but low-budget FX, a fairly shallow notion of science and time quandaries, but does provide a face-paced cyberpunk action-thriller with decent amounts of butt-kicking and gun fighting. Like many of his movies, Van Damme plays more than one version of himself – in this case, he plays himself 10 years into the future.


Time Cop screen capture


The Story: In the near future (2004), time travel has now become possible. Unfortunately, there is a very real danger that going back in time will alter the present. To protect against potential abuse, a special police outfit called the “Time Enforcement Commission” is established to monitor and enforce time travel concerns. Max Walker (Van Damme) is selected for an interview to join. Unfortunately, events in the future have already changed his current circumstances, which lead to the death of his wife, Melissa (Mia Sara).


Time Cop screen capture


Ten years into the future, Max, still working at the Time Enforcement Commission, goes back in time to stop his former partner from attempting to splurge on low-price stocks in 1929 that will be worth a fortune in the future. In stopping his partner, Max uncovers a larger plot of time travel tampering that implicates a sitting Senator of the United States (Ron Silver). As Max starts to investigate, the bad guys begin significant tampering with the timeline. Upon return from one of Max’s fact finding trips, he sees that the future has been significantly altered, and the police force is being decommissioned.


Time Cop screen capture


Max convinces his former friend (the time altering apparently has affected their friendship) and police Commander, Eugene (Bruce McGill), to send him back in time to fix the damage done to the timeline. In doing so, Max has an opportunity to go back and save his wife. Things come to a head when Max and the Senator meet face to face (both current and future versions of each).


Time Cop screen capture


The Action: The reason you want to watch Timecop is primarily for the fast-paced action sequences. We get lots of Van Damme kicking, along with a nice smattering of gunfights, all in interesting locations. As a downside, only one or two of the bad guys put up a decent fight. So many of the action scenes involve Van Damme just wailing on “red shirt” henchmen.


Time Cop screen capture


The FX: The FX for Time Cop worked at the time, but now look somewhat dated. There are quite a number of time portal effects, along with a few burning and “people plasma” shots sprinkled throughout. The set designs are pretty decent, most notably the time portal device, which has a nice dirty, low-tech feel to it. Still, I wish they had done more with the time travel machine, which looks and works like a rocket version of Back to the Future’s flux capacitor.


Time Cop screen capture


The Acting: Considering this is a Van Damme movie, the acting is somewhat better than expected. Van Damme is his same self, which is to say “rather wooden.” But Mia Sara, Ron Silver and Bruce McGill turn in decent performances – certainly decent enough to work with the fast pacing.


Time Cop screen capture


Problems with Time: Timecop really can’t be used to spark interesting discussions on time travel. The questions with how and why things work are too numerous and problematic to engage in interesting discussions. Somehow, they are able to determine if someone has violated time, and can go and stop them, but they don’t seem to be able to go to the same place more than once – why? The same two people cannot occupy the same space – why? What happens if a guy is 80 years older and goes back an visits himself as a small child? Virtually none of the same cells will remain from the child – certainly no skin cells (nor would they for 10 years out, as was the case for the poor Senator) – so how does this constitute occupying the same space? When Max Walker spends the day jumping through time, the future is modified – and he seems to have lost 10 years worth of memories. What happened to the version of Max that lived those 10 years? Did he disappear, or has he simply not gotten home from work yet? One gets the sense that Max is just jumping alternate versions of the present – each one that he created – but the ideas are too shallow to make any real sense of this.


Time Cop screen capture


Bad Guys Have Limited Imagination: Like many bad guys, the imagination of the evil doers in Timecop is severely limited. Time travel is used to go back and engage in bank heists, make stock purchases that pay out 70 years in the future, and so forth. If one really had this technology cornered, it seems that there would be far better ways to generate income. With just an ounce of imagination, one could come up with a myriad of more interesting ways of generating power and influence than petty crime. What about a recorded interview with Jesus Christ? One would think this might generate lots more power and income than knocking off a confederate wagon train shipping small quantities of gold. Instead, the extent of Senator McComb’s ambition is to get rich, kill off potential enemies and then steal the presidential election.


Time Cop screen capture


The Bottom Line: Timecop is an enjoyable movie assuming you turn your brain off prior to watching. This approach generally works as the fast-paced nature of the movie serves to stop you from noticing too many issues. The action is good and the FX are passable, so if you want to kick back and enjoy some Hollywood martial arts wrapped up in a cyberpunk time travel flick, give it a go. I will say though that the quality of the DVD is horrid - so much so that I’m docking a star from my review. It’s got a lousy transfer, no extras, and is in full screen only. Common Universal – fix this!


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This post has been filed under Time Travel, 5 Star Rated Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 1990 - 1999 by SFAM.


January 26, 2007

l1zrdking said:

“Timecop is an enjoyable movie assuming you turn your brain off prior to watching”

The same can be said for all Van Damme movies. However, when this movie came out I was only 15 or 16 and I thought it was awesome. It really hasn’t stood the test of time, but it was entertaining when I was a teenager.

SFAM said:

Hi l1zrdking, I would agree with you, except for the comment about all Van Damme movies being enjoyable. Some aren’t even if you turn your brain off!

l1zrdking said:

Well, I have a soft spot for ol Van Damme, even at his campiest, horrible acting worst. Don’t get me wrong, hes terrible in every sense of the word, but this movie (especially when i was a kid) was nice goofy fun. Same with Cyborg, to watch it now, I almost need some booze, but when it came out, man it was sweet. Besides, who can argue with that sweet sweet mullet.

Also, the FX in this flick were pretty sweet considering I’m sure the budget after Van Damme’s check was 20 bucks and a few pizzas.

January 28, 2007

Case said:

I’d just like to tak this opportunity to tell you all the insanely clever name I came up for this movie after I first saw it in the cinemas - TIMECRAP. *takes small bow* It should come as no surprise, then, that I thought this movie was absolutely one of the most horrible creations I’ve ever seen in a theater…or elsewhere.

SFAM said:

Hi Case. Crap, yes. But fun on occaision.

February 11, 2007

Onideus Mad Hatter said:

It’s bad, but it’s a good kind of bad. It had a few really good moments of cinematography too. My favorite was when the one bad d00d was in the past and everything seems “normal” for the time period…and then all a sudden he just takes out his lil mini-disc player thing and then opens up a copy of USA Today all in this 1920s setting, I’ve always found that to be a very intriguing scene.

It’s also one of those movies that doesn’t explain its tech very well, but, you know…it doesn’t have to. In fact sometimes that detracts from the movie because then it doesn’t invoke any kind of thought process on the watchers part. Even the stuff about ‘why didn’t he go interview Jesus’ and what not…well you could very easily explain that in ANY number of ways, for example you could say that doing such a thing would have a greater impact on the future, or the farther back you go the greater the impact therefore not worth the risk, or you could even describe it as a limitation of the technology, say only being able to travel 100 years forward or 100 years backwards. The bottom line is that IT IS explainable, the fact that they DIDN’T explain it doesn’t make it a bad movie or “wrong”, it just means they were more interested in TELLING A STORY rather than making a documentary on an imaginary technology. Really in that respect it’s not much different from Back to the Future.

SFAM said:

Hi Onideus Mad Hatter, your point about not explaining things very well shouldn’t matter if the story is told well is a reasonable position. Unfortunately, the story wasn’t wold all that well either. My point in discussing this was essentially saying, not only is the story problematic, so is the rationale and technology.

Regarding the “it’s a good kind of bad” I think that’s a fair way of putting it. Timecop is more enjoyable that in should be.

February 16, 2007


this movie: “TIMECOP” is Van Damme’s highest grossing starrer to date. it earned 100M dollars worldwide. his biggest film is currently also his last commercially successful. nowadays, he does direct-to-videos. one thing remarkable about “TIMECOP” is that critics considered it as one of Van Damme’s best.

February 20, 2007

Netrunner said:

Well, TimeCop is an average futuristic action movie. But it is not real cyberpunk in my opinion. To be precise, it’s a “time travel movie”, so to speak. If you liked Back To The Future starring Michael J. Fox you would be interested in Timecop. ;)

However, the only cyberpunkish thing I could see in this movie were the futuristic cars which were driven by an automatic navigation system. They reminded me of the flying cars in Blade Runner.

The time machine itself looked like a rip-off from the Stargate show. *lol* Or was it the other way round? I dunno.

I think time travel doesn’t really fit into a cyberpunk theme. It fits into a Star Trek universe and any other pure sci-fi theme, yes. But as we all know, cyberpunk is about virtual reality, hackers, implants, dark futuristic cities, megacorps, etc. It’s not about cops and bad guys travelling through time and messing around with timelines.

I liked Timecop though. Van Damme’s performance was actually good. I especially liked the gunfights in the factory.


SFAM said:

Netrunner says, “I think time travel doesn’t really fit into a cyberpunk theme.”

Hi Netrunner, I beg to differ on time travel not being a cyberpunk theme. Does this mean you don’t consider the Terminator to be cyberpunk as well? What about Cyborg 2087? Lathe of Heaven? 2009 Lost Memories? Freejack? Returner? 12 Monkeys? La Jetée? Even Minority Report touches on time issues.

In comparing Timecop with Back to the Future, one deals with near future, negative impacts on society whereas the other one is a fun scifi movie that takes place in the past. They really aren’t at all alike. But yeah, it does look like the stargate thing, although both were made in 1994.

June 29, 2007

Klaw said:

Wouldn’t you use your awesome power to control time by… realizing your horrible mullet is absolutely the worst haircut in all history?

Might want to consider putting “The One” on the list, it’s similar to TimeCop with Jet Lee.

September 14, 2007

kitty_tc said:

What I think Netrunner is saying is that time travel is not in itself a cyberpunk theme, and while it’s been in some cyberpunk films, those films were cyberpunk because they had other things in them that were core cyberpunk themes. But taken by itself, time travel alone isn’t nearly enough to make a film cyberpunk.

October 19, 2007


guess what! just like Total Recall, Timecop is gonna be having a remake too! very soon. JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME’s not coming back…

May 24, 2008

bart said:

jean claude van damme is mijn lievelings acteur hij kunt goed spelen

July 14, 2010

We'reOnlyHuman said:

They made a TV series out of thi you know. Same time machine and everything. Didn’t last long

Yea, this is probably one of Van Damme’s best. They at least had a competent hack at the helm (Peter Hyams)

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