I think it’s funny that the last time I participated in The Lamb’s movie of the month it was Demolition Man, a 90’s sci-fi movie that featured an 80’s action star and someone getting frozen and shattered, and this time around I watched a 90’s sci-fi movie that featured an 80’s action star and someone getting frozen and partially shattered. Anyway, this is one of Jean Claude Van Damme’s biggest movies from that era and with good reason. It came out a year after Demolition Man, but it tried to be a much more serious movie than the former. There is a heavily sci-fi mumbo jumbo plot, but instead of just jumping forward in time to a utopia, there is quite a bit of jumping back and forth through time with the occasional alternate timelines, and surprisingly I thought they were actually fairly well thought out and intriguing. It also featured Mia Sara who I remembered from the Ridley Scott fantasy movie Legend and she has a bit of a sex scene in the beginning of the movie that I wasn’t quite expecting. Overall the movie wasn’t quite as much 90’s cheese as I was expecting, and while it’s not the greatest sci-fi action movie by any stretch of the imagination, I had a really great time watching it and it was better than I was expecting it to be.
Van Damme plays a cop in present day 1994 where the government has discovered that there is a scientist who has stumbled upon time travel, and yet somehow has kept it a secret from the public. The president decides that the best plan of action is to create a new department to monitor and police any unauthorized time travel that might disrupt the present. Of course someone is using unauthorized time travel and is disrupting the present which we get to see in a couple fun little scenes in the past during the civil war and the stock market crash of the 20’s. They also don’t waste much time explaining time travel with sci-fi mumbo jumbo. They can’t go into the future because “it hasn’t happened yet”, though I did have a bit of trouble with the fact that you can’t touch your past self because “the same matter can’t occupy the same space at the same time”. Because your past self isn’t remotely the same matter, unless it is a very recent past self as the cells in our body die and are shed. People are almost completely replaced with new cells every 6 years or so. And even though it does predictably play a part in the climax of the movie, it’s not a major issue.
The villain of the piece is Ron Silver who plays MacComb, a corrupt senator who has a cadre of semi-futuristic looking sleazy goons working for him to go back in the past and create a fortune for him in the present so he can afford to run a successful presidential campaign. And anyone who comes across him, he goes back into the past to completely wipe them out of existence by killing their grandparents before their parents were even born. He does a good job of playing sleazy, as well as playing slightly naïve and clueless as his 1994 past self. He has a simple enough motivation as a villain, and has the resources to back it up. It’s a little bit of a stretch that he can completely hide the fact that he’s basically this time travel mob boss when all of his henchmen except for the inside man from the stock market scene look like sleazy biker gang henchmen. It also doesn’t help a whole lot that none of the henchmen have any personality whatsoever, they are merely stuntmen there to give Van Damme people to fight.
The big time travel conjunction comes back to the year 1994, the same year that the time travel was invented, which was also the same year that Van Damme’s wife Mia Sara was gunned down by future villains before he got the chance to learn she was pregnant, which was also the same year that MacComb backed out of a deal with his technology partner right before he had a major breakthrough and cornered the microchip business, costing MacComb billions in lost potential revenue. Even though I did think that the future tech in this movie was quite optimistic, considering some of the things in their 2004 like the self driving cars which we are 10 years past that point and they’re still at least 5-10 years down the line. I did like the fact that Van Damme had spent these 10 years working for the time police, but unable to use his position to save his wife because that would be one of the crimes that he has been trying to stop. There’s a moment that reminded me of Minority Report where he watches a home video that he has seen so many times before he has it memorized.
As for Van Damme himself, he plays his part well enough though it was obviously catered to him. There’s a line about him not speaking English very well, and there’s plenty of places for him to show off his kickboxing skills, specifically his jumping splits which he seemed to be able to do in every single movie he was in during the 90’s. He was fairly likeable in this role, though he doesn’t really bring a whole lot extra to the role aside from his accent and martial arts skills, but there’s enough stuff going on around him that he doesn’t have to be an extremely charismatic character. In the end, even though this movie doesn’t really do anything special, it does everything well enough to be quite enjoyable. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.