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‘Timecop’ (R)

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
September 16, 1994

Where there's a "Timecop," there must be Timerobbers and, sure enough, there they are, working for dastardly Sen. Aaron McComb (Ron Silver). Seems the senator got lucky when he was assigned to chair the new Time Enforcement Commission, which monitors a just-invented time-travel technology. Unfortunately, the senator has gotten greedy.

Now the bad senator, needing cash for massive media buys in his run for the presidency in 2004, hits on the novel idea of sending his minions back through time to rob Union payrolls during the Civil War or to buy up stocks that have crashed in the Great Depression -- stocks that are destined to rebound.

But McComb overlooks Max Walker (Jean-Claude Van Damme). Max is a timecop -- and a bitter one, ever since his wife, Melissa (Mia Sara), was blown up by time rogues on his very first day on the job 10 years earlier. This Max never gets mad, and he doesn't seem particularly interested in getting even, much less using time travel to reshape the past. He's one good timecop, albeit a mopey one.

Max does his job by literally blasting into the past in a super go-cart. Don't try to figure out how he gets back, one of numerous plot details that seem to have slipped by writer Mark Verheiden. Time travel is a one-way trip into the past, and Verheiden seems to have gone back first -- he picked up a stale load of action cliches, special effects and time-warp conundrums along the way.

Toward the end, things get downright silly, close to giddy, as past and present versions of Max and the senator square off for a bit of Zen hand-to-hand-to-hand-to-hand combat.

Working with director Peter Hyams and a big budget, Van Damme must clearly be hoping for a "Terminator"-like quantum leap to the next level of stardom and film quality. But too often "Timecop" devolves into martial arts with a futuristic gloss -- call it Sci-Fu. He's already done a doubling routine in "Double Impact," and he brings nothing new to this table, except perhaps for the nude action sequence with Sara (a prelude to the inevitable bare-butt shot that Van Damme must believe brings women into the theater).

For once, Van Damme's accent is easier to understand than the plot.

It's Ron Silver who seems to be having the most fun here, just as he did with the villain's role in "Blue Steel." His henchmen, however, must have come from Central Miscasting; they look chosen for a fashion shoot, not a film shoot. "Timecop" is good dumb fun, but it's likely to receive the same sentence most Van Damme projects do: a few weeks in movie theaters and eternity on video store shelves and cable television.

"Timecop" contains brief nudity and more sustained violence.

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