The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Friday, September 16, 1994             TAG: 9409160049
TYPE: Movie Review 
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   76 lines


WHO WOULD EVER, in their wildest imaginations, have thought there would come a day when anyone would complain about a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie being too complex?

``Timecop,'' though, is such a movie. It switches from the future to the past and back with a science-fiction flash that might have generated some tension - if only the rules were clearly laid out.

Van Damme, the likable and charismatic athlete from Belgium, is still no actor but at least he manages to suggest an energy and intensity that suggests he's trying. He plays Max Walker, a loner cop employed by the Time Enforcement Commission to enforce the rules, in year 2004, that time travelers can not go back in order to change the past for their own mercenary plans.

The main culprit is a snarling senator, played by Tony Award winner Ron Silver, who plans to change the past so that he can now be elected president. And wouldn't it be a good idea to raise campaign funds by ripping off the stock market back during the Depression?

The film switches from 1863 and the Civil War to 2004, back to the Depression and to the present 1994. For an Ingmar Bergman movie, we'd be willing to put up with a good deal of soul-searching, but for a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie? After awhile, there's a tendency to forget the whole thing and just wait it out. (It's only 98 minutes).

There are inconsistencies - like a house that is blown up in the past, but is still standing in the present.

The most compelling idea is largely ignored. This is the subplot in which Van Damme must ponder whether or not he should use time travel to prevent the murder of his beloved wife (played by Mia Sara). He knows she is to be killed, and he could go back and prevent it from happening. This could be developed into a movie all its own - and quite a good movie. Instead, the writers are obsessed with good guy vs. bad guy games between Silver and Van Damme.

There also is the pesky rule that the same matter cannot occupy the same space. This means that Van Damme can't go back and become himself. Are you still with it?

His faithful fans, after sitting through all this mumbo jumbo, will be rewarded by a few high kicks - including a flip which lands in a split across two kitchen cabinets. Now, that's what moviegoers want. Then there's the moment he walks up the wall and flips backward over his opponent's head.

Clearly, Van Damme is a good-natured and appealing personality. Hopefully, someone will write a good comedy for him. Just as clearly, the big budget ($30 million) of ``Timecop'' suggests that the studio (Universal) thinks it is time for him to make the crossover that Arnold made in ``The Terminator.''

The trouble is that much of the budget doesn't really show. The futuristic cars look pretty cheap. The big effect, a watery, blurry time change, looks like an outtake from the same effects in ``T-2.''

What we need here is a good deal more humor and less self-important plot twisting. There are a few kicks, but not as many as in some less ambitious Van Damme films. ILLUSTRATION: UNIVERSAL PHOTO

Jean-Claude Van Damme, left, is Time Enforcement agent Max Walker

and Ron Silver is Sen. Aaron McComb in ``Timecop.''



Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Ron Silver, Mia Sara, Gloria Reuben

Director: Peter Hyams

Screenplay: Mark Ver-heiden, based on comic strip

MPAA rating: R (violence)

Mal's rating: **

Locations: Greenbrier and Movies 10 in Chesapeake; Circle 6 and

Main Gate in Norfolk; Lynnhaven Mall, Pembroke and Surf-N-Sand in

Virginia Beach

by CNB