'Timecop' true Van Damme flick

By Doug Cummings

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Director Peter Hyams' ("Outland," "2010") new science fiction extravaganza, "Timecop," stars Jean-Claude Van Damme ("Bloodsport," "Hard Target") as Max Walker, a kickboxing federal officer who travels through time catching "time criminals," people who travel into the past and try to profit from their knowledge of future events.

Max Walker's main foe is a crooked politician named McComb (Ron Silver) who travels through time in order to make himself rich and win a presidential election.

Occasionally, the film gets really sappy when Walker mourns the death of his wife and that he can't legally go back in time to save her. Too bad, too, because it would stop those ridiculously cliche scenes of Walker morosely downing a bottle of wine while gazing at videos of his giggling wife.

"Timecop" will no doubt appeal to Van Damme fans with its standard supply of acrobatic melees, tongue-in-cheek one-liners and comic-book sentimentalism. But for those who don't worship the celluloid ground Van Damme walks, the movie will likely disappoint.

Most science fiction films are seemingly influenced only by previously successful movie formulas and rarely reflect the ideological sophistication of science fic tion literature. Authors like Alfred Bester have been writing imaginative time- travel stories for decades, but the best Hollywood can offer is a caricatured cop who "morphs" out of thin air and beats up the bad guys.

Director Hyams is the director of photography as well, and he shoots the movie in a glossy, high-tech style. The compositions are rich, but the various settings, particularly the future, do not hold the lived-in believability that directors like Ridley Scott ("Alien," "Blade Runner") bring to their films. The world of "Timecop" consists of a small collection of funky sets stocked with angular logos, neon paint, and weird computer displays.

There are a lot of illogical occurances, such as when one of the villains sneaks up on Walker to brain him with a metal rod. After Walker physically disposes of him, he takes the villain's gun. One must wonder, if the villain had a gun, why did he decide to sneak up behind a kickboxer and attack him hand-to-hand?

Van Damme is Van Damme, and the supporting cast do their best with their sketchy roles. Mia Sara ("Legend," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off") plays Walker's wife and appropriately looks either beautiful or panicky. Ron Silver ("Reversal of Fortune") plays Senator McComb with pious disdain, and sometimes manages to inject some humor underneath his constant sneer.

However, the movie ultimately suffers from its superficiality and constant pandering to Van Damme's screen persona. In the end, it compromisingly serves up a climax that completely reverses its previous theme of personal sacrifice and disregards its own time-ethic rhetoric. But then again, Van Damme fans haven't complained before.

"Timecop" is showing at Century Park 12, 620-0750.

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