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Defending Jean-Claude Van Damme

Defending Jean-Claude Van Damme — Chris Nashawaty praises ”Timecop”and other flicks from the action-hero

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Defending Jean-Claude Van Damme

Maybe it’s his butchered, English-as-a-second-language one-liners. Or his knack for doing unnecessary splits in the middle of fight scenes. Or his regrettable attachment to the business-in-the-front, party-in-the-back mullet after even Patrick Swayze had moved on.

Either way, Jean-Claude Van Damme has always gotten a bum rap. He’s like an action-hero piñata, happy to absorb the brickbats of critics while raining ass-kick candy down on the rest of us. Take 1994’s Timecop, a sci-fi mindfreak every bit as awesome as Total Recall or Blade Runner. Just rereleased as part of a two-disc ”Quadruple Feature Van Damme Fight Pack’] — along with his Hard Target, Street Fighter, and The QuestTimecop is twisty, smarter than it has any right to be, and lousy with neck-snappin’ Belgian justice. Yes, Ron Silver nearly steals the show as an oily senator who exploits a secret government time-travel program, sending his goons back to 1863 to steal Confederate gold. But it’s Van Damme as the decade-jumping cop nursing the memory of a murdered wife (Ferris Bueller‘s Mia Sara) who sells both the film’s punches and pathos. In a just world, I imagine JCVD warping back in time 14 years to accept our apologies.