Once again, it’s Jean-claude Van Damme, Mr. Muscles from Brussels, trying to get a little respect, this time with a $28 million time-travel thriller that’s meant to show he can act as well as attack, smooch as well as swivel and finally emerge from Ahnuld’s jumbo shadow. Good luck. Time Cop, smoothly directed by Peter Hyams, has its pleasures: spiffy action, a stylish design and a valiant Van Damme. But Mark Verheiden’s script, based on the Dark Horse comic, is a needless muddle.
It’s 2004, and cop Max Walker (Van Damme) is on assignment to bust baddies who try to go back in time and alter history. Senator McComb, played by an acid-tongued Ron Silver, trips back to 1994 for political ambition and profit; he even contributes to his own campaign. Max also is tempted to break rules; his wife, Melissa (Mia Sara), was murdered in ’84 – this is his chance to save her.
Given the short time difference, it’s astonishing that Melissa doesn’t recognize Max at first. Ten years may have added a few lines and subtracted a little hair but, hey, those pecs, that accent. Visual-effects supervisor Greg McMurry adds to the confusion when the older Max occupies the same frame with his younger self. Then the senator gets into the twinning act, advising his trim ’94 version to lay off the doughnuts. It’s too much of a gimmicky thing. Van Damme fans will easily nail what’s wrong with Time Cop: There’s not enough kick in it.