More Copping in Time
Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision
I'm sure most of you that remember the 1994 film Timecop would have expected the film to get a sequel. It wasn't a bad movie (not in that 1990s action kind of way), and it was moderately successful at the Box Office, but it did kind of disappear once it left theaters, running on basic cable for a bit before just vanishing from most people's minds. There and gone, like so many other 1990s action films. "That's the one where Van Damme did the splits, right?" you might ask before remember that's every Van Damme film.
If you're like me, you're first reaction upon seeing Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision would be, "wait, there's another Timecop?" Yes, there is, and it was released nine years after the original. It features none of the original cast, and didn't even make it into theaters, but someone at Universal said, "hey, we have this Timecop license, we should probably do something with it." And so they did, making a direct-to-DVD release that came and went with even less fanfare than the original.
The thing is, despite this being a direct-to-DVD release, it's actually not bad. I don't just mean that in the sense that its better than most other direct-to-DVD fare; in reality, this film is actually a pretty solid extension of the Timecop franchise, and might even be better than the original (by a certain definition of "good"). If you didn't like the original film I doubt you're going to be able to get into this cheeseball sequel, but if you like the concept of the world, or the wacky time travel shenanigans of this series, then this film will likely suit you just fine.
The film opens with a mission for our hero, TEC Agent Ryan Chang (Jason Scott Lee). He, along with his partner, Agent Tyler Jeffers (Tava Smiley), have been sent to Berlin in the lead up to World War II to monitor the situation to ensure no one does anything stupid... you know, like traveling back in time to try and kill Hitler. That would alter the timeline in unforeseeable ways, totally changing the future. While they're there, at a party that's also serving as a meeting of the Nazi elites, another TEC agent shows up, Brandon Miller (Thomas Ian Griffith). And, yes, he's there to kill Hitler. Chang has to stop Anderson, and in the process he ends up shooting Sasha (Tricia Barry) to stop her from killing Hitler.
Two years later, Miller escapes the super-max prison he's been kept in, and he has one goal: to stop the TEC from meddling in his affairs so he can, once more, try to "fix" the timeline. So he grabs the personnel files of the TEC, and one by one goes through time, killing the agents off. Somehow (without explanation), Ryan is able to see this happening, so he has his boss send him back. He has to track down Miller and stop him, once and for all, reverting all the changes. Otherwise the TEC, the future, and the whole timeline could be destroyed.
While it's weird to think of a sequel without any of the cast returning, the nice thing about the Timecop setup is that you really don't need to have anyone from the first movie show up here. It's a policing agency, so there could be offices everywhere. Agents would work, would cycle in and out, and after 30 years (as this film is set in 2024) we'd have a whole new crew of people at the agency. It actually makes a certain amount of sense, when you think about it.
Plus, honestly, Jason Scott Lee is a solid actor. He can handle the action, as he's trained martial artist (having trained in Jeet Kune Do since playing Bruce Lee in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story), but he's also a pretty good actor. In fairness, this script isn't that deep, and it mostly requires Lee to say some quips and then fight a few times, but it works and Lee is more than capable of carrying the film. He's in just about every scene, and the film is at its best when it just lets him do the talking.
The action is, well, not that great. This is an action movie, but the film didn't really have the budget to play for too many stunt performers or much in the way of special effects. Most of the action sequences are Lee doing a few moves (sometimes shot in a way that makes it obvious when he's pulling his punches) and then someone falling down. It's not deep, and is honestly kind of silly. Still, Lee is charismatic enough, and the film moves along at a steady enough clip, that even the weak action moments don't hold it back too much.
I do appreciate that the film directly addresses the idea of changing the future for the better. Having a villain that wants to do the thing everyone talks about when it comes to time travel -- "hey, let's kill Hitler!" -- makes sense, and is a natural way to get people into the story. Plus, it adds needed depth to a villain who, frankly, is otherwise underwritten by the script, Miller doesn't show up much until the end, appearing only in the opening sequence of the film before (due to the bounds of the story) disappearing for a long stretch. But his plan is just the right level of sensible, from a certain perspective, that it makes the film work.
And the film is willing to have fun with itself. The opening sequence in Germany had a fair bit of humor and a breezy lightness to it. Later scenes are darker, but there's always a character to bring out a quip or some silly addition to a sequence to keep it amusing. By the time the timeline really starts changing and characters start getting weird affectations (like an unexplained eye patch), you know the film is embracing its goofiness with open arms. I enjoyed that.
Really, the film knows how to get in, get its story done, and get out. At only 78 minutes long it's just barely long enough to even be considered a movie, but that helps here. Anything that would drag the movie down, or make it laggy, or just detract from the fact pace is cut. This is an efficiently made, and efficiently run, little film that handles itself well and then knows when its time to go home. That's better than it trying to overly explain everything and taking too long to get going. I much prefer this.
Timecop 2 isn't a good movie by normal standards but, then, neither was the first film. It is fun, though, and it handles its concept well. It's low budget and silly but it is fun, and that's not nothing. If you left Timecop wishing for more then here you go. It's more, and its fun, and it does its job. For a direct-to-DVD sequel no one expected, that's more than enough.