I cannot explain this love of mine in any rational terms. Van Damme was at one point in his career considered Arnold Schwarzenegger without the price tag— like Arnold, he was consistently passed off as an American despite the heavily accented English, and his acting was almost always laughably bad. That being said, there are many minor gems in Van Damme’s career.
Over time, though, Van Damme got more and more serious with his acting, being relegated to direct-to-video hell for a long time. Finally, he starred in 2008’s JCVD, playing a fictionalised version of himself. The movie shocked me, because Van Damme proved he could actually act, especially when he delivered a brilliant monologue. The film, largely in French, is also a very funny black comedy, when Van Damme stumbles into a bank in the middle of a robbery, only to get involved. Meanwhile, the police are convinced he’s the mastermind behind the crime and attempt to get him to give himself up.
Our story begins when we find out that in the year 1994, time travel has been discovered. The current Presidential administration finds it laughable (as do I), but they are convinced to take it seriously and hire the Obvious Villain, played by Ron Silver, to oversee the project of policing time travel. See, it turns out that travelling back in time is an easy way to make money, because you can steal as much gold as a pack of horses can carry and it will make a major difference in the American economy! (I must say, this is proving to be one of Van Damme’s most intelligent films already!)
We then meet our extremely American hero (no, really—that accent is just for fun) Max Walker. He’s a cop who’s just been contacted with the opportunity of becoming part of the TEC (Time Enforcement Committee), and he has a lovely wife, Melissa, played by Mia Sara. He’s called out late one night and she begs him not to go. She says she has something to tell him. He asks her to wait until he gets back. She says okay. Walker opens the front door and is immediately attacked by a bunch of goons, who enter his house and blow it up with Melissa still inside. (You get only one guess as to what Melissa’s secret was, and it’s anyone’s guess why they didn’t kill Van Damme, as the movie’s events will later prove. But to ponder on this film’s paradoxes of time is the sure road to madness.)
Hey, we opened at Number 1! Look at
that little movie way down there near the
bottom—The Shawshank Redemption.
Who’ll ever remember that movie?
This movie is truly mind-boggling. To say its logic is porous is like saying the sky is blue. For instance: you cannot travel into the future, because it hasn’t happened yet. But how do we know what the present is? And once you travel into the past, doesn’t the present technically become the future? And why do you need to time travel in a strange little car that disappears as soon as you appear in the past? And despite all these lovely logical loopholes, why does the film insist in making a time paradox a major part of its resolution?
That being said, it’s all tremendous fun. If you can block all the stupid bits out of your mind (something I’ve become an expert at while watching Van Damme movies), then the villain’s plan actually isn’t that bad (there is an idea here that, if given some thought, could have led to something great), and this is one of the funnest villains I’ve ever seen in a JCVD movie. Ron Silver has a blast in his role— I particularly love one of his lines when he goes to meet his past self. At one point during this conversation, he shouts out: “Never interrupt me when I’m talking to myself!”
Mia Sara is suitably sympathetic as Van Damme’s wife, and despite the silly and derivative nature of her role and relationship with Van Damme, she pulls it off just nicely enough.
|Tonight, the part of Ron Silver will be played by Ron Silver|
The movie’s finale really stands out for me, when two versions of JCVD are walking around in 1994, on the night the goons killed Van Damme’s wife. The movie becomes most creative then, and there are some neat, thrilling moments. In general, there are several creative chases, action sequences, etc. It’s just a fun movie to watch. There’s only one condition: you have to be willing to turn your brain off. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys movies like this, you’ll probably like Timecop.
And as for me, I love ‘em.