Thursday, 29 May 2008
TIMECOP 2: THE BERLIN DECISION (2003)
Director: Stephen Boyum
Screenplay: Gary Scott Thompson
Starring: Jason Scott Lee, Thomas Ian Griffith, John Beck and Mary Page Keller
Direct-to-video (DTV) sequels to successful original films are a hit and miss affair. Often rushed, using very little money and sometimes made years after the original, they end up as cheap knock-offs of the film that inspired them. They never really explore or expand on the concepts of the original, instead just re-hashing the first film on a smaller budget and with a lot less skill. This has unleashed a plague of sequels upon us; some good, some bad, and some almost ruining the reputation of the film that spawned them. Some cases in point: Kickboxer/The Prophecy, 4 sequels each; Bloodsport/Nemesis, 3 sequels each; Mimic/Sniper/Wild Things, 2 sequels each; The Hitcher, 1 sequel (and lets hope there are no more) and I hear even Single White Female has a sequel now. Which brings us to Timecop 2, the 2003 sequel to the original Van Damme masterpiece (there seems to be a theme with sequels to Van Damme films with the Kickboxer/Bloodsport/Cyborg/Universal Soldier/Timecop franchises racking up no less than 13 sequels between them).
Ryan Chan (Lee) works for the Time Enforcement Committee (T.E.C), a time travelling police force who prevent criminals from travelling to the past and altering the future. In a Nazi Germany set prologue, we see Chan and his fellow Timecop, Branson Miller (Griffith), stop a time altering crime. However, Miller has other plans and attempts to assassinate Hitler in order to stop him from committing the crimes he inevitably will. T.E.C does not allow the past to be altered so what crimes have been committed before the invention of time travel must stay that way. Chan intervenes to stop Miller but in the process kills his main squeeze, another Timecop. Suspended for 30 days, Chan uses the time travel device to hide out in the 1800’s where he expects one of Miller’s followers is up to no good. He is right and after stopping him, discovers Miller has a splinter group of Timecops who are jetting through time changing history. Chan is reinstated into the T.E.C and sets about chasing Miller. Throw in Chan’s tormented past (which Miller may or may not be responsible for), some energetic martial arts and a few deep ruminations (for a film called Timecop 2 anyway) about the consequences of time travel; you have a surprisingly decent direct-to-video sequel.
The first Timecop was actually pretty good and one of the Van Damme better vehicles. Directed by Peter (2010) Hyams, it had a decent budget, good action sequences, Mia Sara naked and the great Ron Silver. Timecop 2, though lacking in the naked parts (save Jason Scott Lee’s bare chest) and Ron Silver, retains most of the energy and likeability of the first film. Expanding on the whole time travelling concept, Timecop 2 attempts, and often succeeds, in exploring the benefits and consequences of time travel. Chan’s voice-overs and various conversations/arguments with other characters help to give more insight into the use and abuse of time travel. We even get to see the toll it takes on the cops as the T.E.C doctor (Keller) repeatedly argues that frequent time jumping is too stressful for the cops. This lifts the film up from the usual DTV sequel nonsense (not that I am saying time travel is a realistic concept) and gives the film a bit more substance in between all the token silly dialogue and time jumping shenanigans. The time travel concept is not merely used as a plot device for special effects but to show the consequences it has on the characters and their actions.
Though lacking a decent budget (it often looks like a TV movie) Timecop 2 is professionally made. Director Stephen Boyum (Slap Shot 2) keeps things moving at a rapid pace (78 mins to be exact) and though the sets, including the Wild West and an 80’s dance club, don’t always convince, Boyum builds enough suspense out of the situations that you hardly have time to notice. The fight scenes are effective but lack real style and impact. The camera gets in too close, diluting the full effect of the fight. The final confrontation between Lee and Griffith is nicely done though; with both actors going at it full tilt. There is a lot going on for a film only 78 mins long and add in all the jumping backwards and forwards in time, the story does tend to get a little convoluted in places.
Lee is likeable as Chan, though tends to overact a little. This is the case with many of the supporting characters, though Mary Page Keller (The Negotiator) as the Doc is a little more convincing. Thomas Ian Griffith comes off best as bad guy, Miller. He provides the right amount of menace without ever hamming it up and balances this well with the younger, innocent version of Miller he plays in one of the alternate timelines. Griffith is one of those actors who should have moved onto bigger things by now (ditto Gary Daniels). Making his name in low budget action flicks such as Excessive Force and Ulterior Moves (and the little seen Behind Enemy Lines, not the Owen Wilson one) he has appeared in the likes of John Carpenter’s Vampires and XXX.
Timecop 2 is a surprise DTV sequel that defies convention by being as good as its big budget predecessor. It’s a sci-fi movie that attempts to explore its science while at the same time providing some kick ass entertainment. Timecop 3 doesn’t seem like such a bad prospect. But please no more Kickboxer sequels.