Review for Timecop
Do you ever get the feeling that history doesn’t serve mainstream cinema that well? At least major studios don’t. I’m still on my quest to upgrade my most favourite films to HD, and this time my attention turns to Timecop. It seems that Warner Brothers have forgotten just what a hit Timecop was back in 1994. It was the blockbuster movie of the summer, spun off a short-lived TV series, and entered popular culture in a way few films manage. When they’re making Timecop references on Friends, with a van Damme cameo, you really do have a hit movie. Yet when the DVD was released in 1999, it was pretty much barebones. That’s to be expected so early in the format’s lifecycle, but now that Blu-ray has become bedded in, I would have hoped that the film got the treatment it deserves. But the Blu-ray is actually even more Spartan than the DVD. This one’s just for the AV upgrade...
In 1994, Officer Max Walker became an early recruit to the TEC, a government agency formed to police the fledgling technology of time travel. He didn’t have long to celebrate his promotion as his house was attacked, his wife murdered. In 2004, his work is all that Max Walker has, travelling through time to stop people profiting from the past.
But 2004 is an election year, and Senator Aaron McComb is on a headlong rush to the White House. He’s figured out the one thing that he needs to be elected president is money. He doesn’t have money, but he does chair the Senate Oversight Committee in charge of the TEC, and he knows all about time travel.
Timecop gets a 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on this single layer disc. A 98 minute long movie with nothing else fits just fine in 25GB. The image is clear, and relatively sharp throughout. Colours are a little saturated, particularly evident in skin tones, but not excessively so. There is a bit of grain in the film, suggesting that DNR if applied has been lightly so. Detail levels are good, the action comes across well, and in HD, the early CGI effects look even more plasticky. But it’s clear that Timecop is mastered from the same source as the DVD, and little or no restoration has been applied. At least this time the climax of the film, set at night in a dark house during a rainstorm, is discernible in HD where it was pretty incoherent in SD.
You have the choice between DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English and DD 5.1 Surround German, with subtitles in these languages and in Portuguese, Bulgarian, Chinese, Czech, French, Greek, Spanish and Romanian. The audio is fine, the dialogue is clear, and the action comes across with impact and style, putting all the soundstage to work. Timecop comes from an era when action movie dialogue still had energy and zing to it, where heroes were expected to crack wise with every bad guy they dispatched, and this film certainly doesn’t disappoint. Of course the balance between action and dialogue is such that you might need to ride the remote control while watching, but I’ve heard worse.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray case, which boots to a static menu. That’s it. Even the DVD had actor profiles in text form, and the theatrical trailer!
It’s time to wheel out the ‘they don’t make ‘em like they used to’ cliché. It could be the sign of a mid-life crisis, but I doubt it. Timecop comes from a time when CGI special effects sucked, action movie stars had to have screen presence to drown that suckiness out, and they actually had to perform some action stunts. If there’s one thing that Jean Claude van Damme could do in the eighties and nineties, it was action. On top of that, writers had to actually put some work in to tell their stories, give their characters some meaty dialogue, once again to distract the viewer from the plastic CGI. These films are fun to watch, and they leave you feeling good afterwards, having seen good triumph over evil once more.
But in the grand tradition of seeing something new in old movies, I have to admit that the character of Senator McComb gave me an extra dimension of entertainment last night. A narcissistic sociopath, trying to buy his way into the presidency, bullying all around him when he doesn’t get his own way, appealing to the more reactionary demographic of the electorate... They could have made him a sex pest, and rhetorically belligerent as well, but I think the movie makers would have thought that unrealistic!
Timecop is a classic action movie, and while this Blu-ray is good enough to watch, the HD presentation doing the film justice, it’s criminally underserved when it comes to extra features. These films deserve audio commentaries and featurettes and the like, a treatment to duly reflect their box office clout and earning potential back in the day, rather than being rushed out like just another back catalogue cash-grab. Timecop just had the misfortune of predating the DVD revolution by four years, and fans of the film have to live with that unfortunate timing.