Jason Scott Lee travels back in time for the same reason twice. No it’s not déjà vu; he just travels back in time for the same reason twice. The first time was with the 2003 direct-to-video release of TIMECOP: THE BERLIN DECISION; the second time is with the brand new, June 2010 release, not meant to fool you same with a slightly different title – TIMECOP 2: THE BERLIN DECISION. And guess what? The film has not changed, the fights are still bad and the time continuum for now remains undisturbed.
There is one disturbing piece of video on the revamp that just about summarizes the sleaze factor of Hollywood, with blatant lies sold as the God’s honest truth – but to the folks that made this film, god is just a word.
On paper, the TIMECOP films (Jean Claude Van Damme’s TIMECOP  and this movie) sound interesting. A time machine has been invented and people who abuse its power for personal gain become targets for a time-traveling police force know as the Time Enforcement Commission (TEC). Although the films are far from hi-tech, TIMECOP 2 attempts to push the envelope of the Grandfather Paradox (if you go back in time and kill your grandfather before he meets your grandmother would you still exist?) while debating the long time “What if?” question of righting a wrong from the past.
When good TEC cop Brandon Miller (Thomas Ian Giffith) convinces himself he has the moral obligation to go back in time and assassinate Adolph Hitler as a means to prevent the death of 11 million people, ultra-good TEC cop Ryan Chan (Jason Scott Lee) is there to stop him. However, things go awry as Miller and Chan’s plans don’t go as planned; their paths move toward different plains that result in similar pains.
Stories about time travel are of course not new. Early examples of the theme are mentioned in the Sanskrit epic of ancient India “Mahabharata” (circa 700 BC, about the same time Homer wrote the “Illiad”) and the Jewish Talmud (AD 200). Some early examples that are purely about time travel to the future are the Japanese tale “Urashima Taro” (AD 720) and Louis-Sebastien Mercier’s “The Year 2440: A Dream If Ever There Were One” (1771).
Enrique Gaspar y Rimbau’s book “El Anacronopete” (1887) was the first story to feature time travel via a time machine. H.G. Wells’ novel “The Time Machine” (1895) eventually becoming the blueprint for later time travel stories featuring vehicles that allow the time traveller to pick and choose where and when he wanted to go, such as in TIMECOP 2.
Even 10 years after DRAGON: THE BRUCE LEE STORY (1993) and five years after SOLDIER (1998) time had not changed Jason Scott Lee’s martial arts skills or the abilities of the fight choreographer, former Bruce Lee student Jerry Poteet. Bruce recognized that film fight choreography and real fights were completely different animals, yet Poteet and his cinematic protégé Jason wrongly assumed that reel fights should be real-looking rather than creative, entertaining, and dramatic. It has been the curse of American-made martial arts films since the 1970s, only slightly changed during the 1990s, but even then stunt coordinators and directors didn’t know (and many still don’t) how to shoot a martial arts fight scene.
On the set of SOLDIER, Jason once told me that Jackie Chan is not a martial artist (true he’s not, but then neither is Jason) and that Chan doesn’t know how to make or shoot a good fight scene. The second part of his comment says it all and that attitude pervades in TIMECOP 2. However, when Jason tries to copy a fight from Chan’s BATTLE CREEK BRAWL (1980), it’s rather pathetic; not even tight camera angles and makeshift editing can hide it.
With a running time of 81 mins, the “action-packed” TIMECOP 2 has 13 fights that cumulatively last about seven minutes. The new DVD, released on June 1, has closed-captions for the hearing impaired, and has English, French and Spanish subtitles. Bonus material include 3 minutes and 30 seconds of behind-the-scenes rambling with actress Tava Smiley and a 10-minute “Making of” track.
So what was the part that disturbed me? During the “Making of” sequence, producer Mike Elliot boldly fibs that the fight choreographers of TIMECOP 2 “are famous in the world. In fact, they were the martial arts choreographers for Bruce Lee in Bruce Lee’s movies.” Huh?
Including TIMECOP 2, Poteet has choreographed only four films. Furthermore, Bruce Lee’s main choreographers included himself, Sammo Hung, and the late Lam Ching-ying. Lee and Lam need to come back and haunt Elliot into telling the truth. Then we’d have a really interesting time travel story to watch.
TIME COP 2: THE BERLIN DECISION (2003). Directed by Steve Boyum. Written by Gary Scott Thompson, based on the comic series by Mike Richardson and Mark Verheiden. Cast: Jason Scott Lee, Thomas Ian Griffith, Mary Page Keller, John Beck, Tava Smiley, Josh Hammond, Tricia Barry, Sam Ly.
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