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Timecop: The Berlin Decision (December 20/03)

Timecop still stands as Jean Claude Van Damme's best movie (which isn't exactly a major feat, considering how lousy his flicks have been as of late), primarily because of Peter Hyams' effective direction and an engaging storyline. This sequel, featuring Jason Scott Lee in place of Van Damme, fails almost the instant it begins - due mostly to the fact that it abandons all the elements that made the first one so enjoyable.

Lee stars as Ryan Chan, a dedicated timecop on a mission in 1940s Germany (though why he's there is never quite explained). After he spots a colleague plotting to kill Hitler, he intervenes - and winds up killing said colleague's wife in the process. This obviously doesn't sit well Miller (Thomas Ian Griffith), the newfound widower, who takes it upon himself to begin altering the past for his own benefit. Though Ryan attempts to undo all his changes, Miller proves to be a formidable foe.

Where the first Timecop had fun with the various paradoxes that emerge from time travel, Timecop: The Berlin Decision takes things too far and becomes a confusing mess. Screenwriter Gary Scott Thompson makes it virtually impossible to follow the plot, as he throws in twists and turns that are utterly incomprehensible. The film gets off to a fairly decent start with all the Hitler stuff, but it's soon evident that simplicity is not in the cards here.

As Ryan begins attempting to fix all the changes made by Miller, the film becomes more and more convoluted. Things happen without explanation - such as a prison break orchestrated by Miller - and the film's refusal to slow down and allow characters to just talk eventually becomes frustrating. It finally becomes clear that Timecop: The Berlin Decision is using all these intriguing science-fiction ideas as an excuse to showcase some admittedly impressive fight sequences. Lee, whose big break came in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, makes good use of his experiences on that movie and does a nice job of making each of the many fighting scenes exciting. But what made the first Timecop so enjoyable was the effective balance of ideas and ass-kicking; this sequel sure has a lot of the latter, but hardly any of the former.

Timecop: The Berlin Decision does have a few good things going for it - Tava Smiley's supporting performance as Ryan's partner, for one - but really, this is a perfect example of a needless sequel.

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