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Film / Timecop

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Go ahead, make his day... he's got all the time in the world.

"Turn back the clock, and you're history."
— Tagline

Timecop is a 1994 movie based on a one-shot comic published by Dark Horse Comics, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as Max Walker, a (wait for it) Timecop who has to go back in time to prevent other people from going back in time and messing up history. Mia Sara was cast as his wife Melissa, who dies in the opening act, resulting in Walker's zealotry in his job:

"If I cannot go back to save her... this scumbag is not going back to steal money!"

At no point in the movie are there any legitimate reasons for time travel, implying that the only reason for time travel is to prevent other people from using time travel. This is actually a plot point. Butterfly of Doom means that attempting to Set Right What Once Went Wrong would have disastrous side effects, so about the least dangerous thing you can do with it is either go back and steal things with advanced technology or make investments in the past that you can cash in on in the present. And even this is risking some bizarre accident that could kill billions. So aside from the highly risky (and unprofitable) archaeological possibilities, the technology has no productive use, resulting in the titular Cops. One politician even suggests that they simply re-invest the program's funding into tougher regulations on the technology — but he's really only interested in stopping Walker's interference in his own time travel shenanigans.

It had a short-lived spin off show, Timecop: The Series, which featured a brand new cast and lasted for one season of nine episodes. There was also a direct-to-DVD sequel Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision (2003), taking place 20 years following the original.

Timecop provides examples of the following tropes:

  • '80s Hair: Hilariously enough, it's the 2004 Max Walker who wears a mullet (possibly justified; as a regular DC cop he'd have to keep to strict grooming standards, and after losing Melissa he cares a bit less about presentation in a top-secret government agency).
  • Amnesiac Lover: Future!Walker regarding his wife in the past, who's dead in the future. He has to step carefully interacting with her (which he's not even supposed to be doing in the first place) lest he inadvertently change the future for the worse.
  • Anachronism Stew: Played for full effect in the opening scene where five Confederate cavalrymen guarding a gold wagon are massacred by a single man, when he suddenly produces two laser-sighted M91S submachine guns from under his coat.
  • Artistic License – Biology + Artistic License – Nuclear Physics: Apparently you can carbon-date gold bars.
    • Even if you could, carbon dating isn't as precise as it's depicted in the movie. And even if it was, if the gold was brought through time it wouldn't have measurably aged.
      • Both could theoretically be explained (at least somewhat better) by the simple idea that they didn't bring it back with them, just hid it somewhere and then dug it up in the present. Probably much cheaper re: energy expenditure, and also might leave other trace on or around the gold that could be dated.
    • A more valid method of asserting the authenticity of the gold would have been to examine whether the impurities in the metal and the casting marks match the time and place.
  • Artistic License – Biology + Artistic License – Physics: Another egregious scientific error has to do with the claim that "the same matter cannot occupy the same space at the same time". Technically, of course, this is true, they physically can't. If you touch yourself in the past, like if you touch any object, the atoms in your body and your other body will actually occupy the space next to each other. And also there's Pauli's exclusion principle which states that two identical fermions (what matter is made up of) cannot occupy the same quantum state simultaneously. But in the film, what this apparently means is "if you touch yourself in the past, your body will melt into a revolting mass". But this can't happen in reality, since the same matter is always going to occupy a different space anyway. And, of course, the body replaces much of the matter that it contains, such that two versions of someone from ten years apart will not have much of the same matter in their body anyway.
  • Artistic License – Law: The TEC has its own in-house courtroom with an always-on-call judge, but no attorneys arguing for the defense or even the prosecution, let alone a jury. And they conduct their own executions by sending convicts into the past at great heights. It's inferred that they execute every suspect they catch within minutes of their return, as they don't have holding cells on-site. They probably only haul suspects back to headquarters as a manner of paperwork. One could Hand Wave this as a top-secret agency working above the Godzilla Threshold to police time, but their inability to offer leniency means that they can't really investigate crimes occurring in the past, just execute everyone they can prove isn't indigenous to the timeline.
  • Automated Automobiles: Voice-activated. In 2004! See Zeerust below.
  • Beard of Sorrow: While '94 Max is clean-shaven, the Max of 2004 who's lost Melissa has notable Perma-Stubble and generally unkempt hair.
  • Brick Joke: "I'm an ambitious Harvard-educated visionary who deserves to be the most powerful man in the world, and you, you're a fuckin' idiot who never figured out that the only way to make anything of all that fancy kicking is on Broadway." Right before killing the person responsible for that line, Max says "I'm still kicking. I must be on Broadway."
  • Compound-Interest Time Travel Gambit: Temporal criminals try to buy Wall Street stock on the day of the crash, and Hollywood land when it's worth only a few cents.
  • Corrupt Politician: McComb. He backs the time travel police agency apparently only because he senses the potential for time-travel money-making crimes to fuel his own ambitions. Once he has his own time-travel crime ring up, he tries to shut down the very agency he helped create.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Senator McComb's picture is stuck to a dartboard and is quickly turned around when he drops by for a visit.
  • Driven to Suicide: Max's ex-partner, Lyle, tries to jump out of a window on the reasoning that if he dies, McComb won't erase him from history.
    Lyle: He'll send back someone to kill my grandparents. It'll be like I never existed! My entire family! My parents, my wife, my kids! Hell, even my fucking cat!
    • It's also one of the few cases in which the subject knows that the Mob Boss will keep his word: if he'd testified, then erasing him would solve the entire problem at a loss, but if he kills himself or lets himself be executed by the TEC without naming a superior, the boss will let his history remain intact so as to not erase his contributions to the organization.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Fielding pulls one out before she jumps for the first time.
  • Foreshadowing: Lyle warns Max that McComb "already owns most of the guys we work with" — including Fielding as it turns out.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: The Time Enforcement Commission (TEC), where Max Walker works.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: After Fielding is betrayed by McComb, she agrees to testify his crimes to Walker, only to be immediately murdered in her hospital bed. She gets better though.
  • Herr Doktor: The inventor of the time machine is a "Doctor Hans Kleindast", a "Nobel Laureate who helped us during the space program."
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: The Mr. Exposition in the Senate hearing explicitly said it would be a bad idea to go back and kill Hitler, much as he'd personally like to.
  • I Hate Past Me: McComb really doesn't like his past self.
    Future!McComb: Do me a favor, would you? Lay off the fucking candy bars!
  • In Spite of a Nail: Future Walker stops the purse snatcher from doing so like he did in the original timeline. He also warned Melissa about what will happen, and neither has any profound affect on Present Walker's meeting with Melissa.
  • Job Title: VanDamme is an agent for a bureau policing disruptions caused by temporal criminal activity. A "Timecop," one might say.
  • Karmic Death:
    • The criminal buying Wall Street stock makes a joke about a stockbroker who threw himself out the window just before he arrived. After being caught and sentenced to death, he's sent back in time to Wall Street — in mid-air, several hundred feet up.
    • McComb insults Walker with a snide comment about the agent's "fancy kicking". Walker kills him in the climax by kicking 1994 McComb into his older self.
  • Kiss Me, I'm Virtual: The tech guy at the time agency is caught by his boss as he's using the resident VR machine for a porn scenario. The end of the previous scene immediately cuts right to a nude, buxom woman waiting with anticipation as the POV camera closes in on her in a rather jarring fashion before establishing that it's a fantasy, giving the impression that someone just spliced in a random porno Tyler Durden-style in the middle of the movie.
  • Made of Explodium: One small brick of C4 should not make his entire large house explode in such a huge fire ball.
  • The Mob Boss Is Scarier: Early in the film, Walker's ex-partner who has started working for McComb refuses to testify against McComb. After all, the worst the police can do is execute him. McComb can make him and his whole family Ret-Gone... along with all the money he earned for McComb. Suicide by Cop is thus a very rational alternative.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: The rule is that "two instances of the same matter cannot occupy the same space". So if, let's say, two different time-displaced counterparts of the same person (such as a Past Self and Future Self) do meet (or more specifically touch), they end up canceling each other out. By that we mean they fuse into a giant gushing fluid mass of body parts that dissolves out of existence in a matter of seconds. It's a blatant violation of the laws of conservation of mass and energy, but hey, it could be worse.
  • No OSHA Compliance: A large number of clearly marked flammable barrels are ignited, yet no audible smoke or fire alarms go off. When emergency services arrives, it's the police with guns drawn, not the fire department.
  • Non Violent Initial Confrontation: The first time Walker and Senator McComb meet, Walker's boss is showing the later the TEC's installations, so naturally there is no physical confrontation. There is a Snark-to-Snark Combat, though.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: McComb attempts to invoke this on Walker in the climax, but Walker points out that unlike McComb, he was trying to set the timeline right.
  • Officer O'Hara: One of these shows up patrolling 1929 Wall Street. We first see him trying to tell people Move Along, Nothing to See Here about a banker who jumped from a building (understandable, the scene happens the day before the crash that started the Great Depression officially occurs) and he then provides a pithy one-liner when Lyle is put back in the past for him to fall to his death as sentenced.
    Officer (after seeing Lyle do a Car Cushion) Poor lad. Tomorrow would have been a brighter day.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Doubles as an Ironic Echo.
    Max Walker: I'm still kicking. I must be on Broadway!
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Matusak is the polar opposite of Da Chief. Even when Walker comes back and Ret-Gone has made all things look like McComb will win, Matusak still believes Walker's apparently wild rantings that he can find evidence of McComb's misdeeds in the past and helps him perform a rogue launch.
  • Ret-Gone: How do you make sure your mooks aren't tempted to testify against you? By threatening to go back and murder their grandparents, thus erasing a few generations of their family.
  • Ripple Effect Indicator: In a fight in 1994, Walker kicks the 1994 version of McComb across the face, opening up a huge cut. Instantly, a scar materializes on the face of the 2004 McComb who's standing nearby.
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: It's implied that this is a constant phenomenon. The TEC has the technology to detect "ripples" well before they impact the present, but unless an agent is sent to investigate, they'll never know precisely what changed (though their intelligence branches still offer theories, such as the Iranians trying to assassinate a President, someone trying to buy up pre-development Beverly Hills, etc.) Likewise, it is common for agents returning from the past to need to be reminded about current events. When Walker returns after failing to prevent McComb from killing one of his business partners, Matuzak isn't at all bothered when he tells Walker that McComb has come to power and has no idea who Walker is talking about when he asks about Fielding, his turncoat partner. On the other hand, after Walker returns from killing McComb, Matuzak is rather baffled that his star agent is asking about a public figure who's been missing for a decade. Walker also has no memory of his life with Melissa after he stops her from being killed, including the entire life of their 9-year-old son.
    Walker: I've got a blank spot.
    Matuzak: You've got a hole in your head!
  • Screw the Rules, They Broke Them First!: Foreshadowed well in advance. When Walker and Matuzak are talking about how McComb has been a slippery bastard so far at the very beginning, Walker growls out "if I can't go back in time to save my wife, there's no way I'm gonna let him go back in time to profit." But after McComb achieves what he wanted in the second act, Walker goes back in time to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, and sure enough destiny makes it necessary for him to save his wife's life as part of it.
  • Sickbed Slaying: Fielding is recruited by the bad guys as The Mole, but once she has outlived her usefulness, McComb leaves her to die in the past. When Walker goes back in time to find her in a hospital, she agrees to testify against McComb. Walker then goes into the file room, and when he returns, she has already been murdered by an assassin and a nurse who walks in assumes that he's responsible.
  • Terminator Twosome: The Timecop's main job is to form half of one, to prevent anyone going into the past from changing the present.
  • Time Is Dangerous: The Timecop's method of time travel requires extremely high speed when they pass through the time travel field. There was one failure that just left two red spots on a heavy steel wall, which could have simply been averted by building a runway twice as long, with runway brakes on the second half.
  • Time Machine: Timecop Type, a giant sled shoots you back into the past, but you arrive without said machine and you have a remote control that will get you back to the sled.
  • Time Police: Well, duh. After all, some people find a way to abuse Time Travel for fun and profit.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: You can't travel into the future because it hasn't happened yet, but you can return to the present from the past.
  • Unscientific Science: The premise that you dare not come into contact with your past self because "the same matter cannot occupy the same space at the same time" is absurd. All the atoms in our bodies are replaced on a regular basis. In other words, not one single atom present in your body today was there five years ago. So what's causing the violation then?
    • Also, if you tried touching yourself from five minutes ago, you'd have a hard time making any one atom touch itself as atoms are on the small side. There are millions in the width of a hair, their size is measured in fractions of nanometers. If you touched fingertips, the same atom wouldn't likely end up touching itself; being a literal hair off would put any atom and its past self pretty far apart. This means the same matter still isn't touching itself. And if you were pushed into yourself from behind, forget it - that's the atoms from the front of your shirt touching the atoms from the back of your shirt. The same specific atoms' counterparts are feet away, which may as well be light-years. Also also, if you could make the same atom touch itself, they are still not "occupying the same space," just, well, touching.
  • Zeerust: Remember back in 2004, when we all had those self-driving, voice-activated cars that looked like spaceships? Good times, good times. We also evidently had some sort of cartridge music player instead of tapes or CDs. Widescreen TVs a few years early, too! Mullets came back into style, too.


Video Example(s):


TimeCop- 50,000 Volts

A mook trying to electrocute a barely dressed Jean Claude Van Damme receives a great shock.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / HoistByHisOwnPetard

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