Why, exactly, 'Bloodsport,' the so-cheesy-it's-still-cheesy action flick that has somehow garnered a cult reputation, and 'Timecop,' an ambitious if not-exactly-successful comic book adaptation, are on the same disc isn't made explicitly clear, beyond the link of main star Jean-Claude Van Damme.
I guess it must have to do with the ever-shifting science of distribution and rights-holding, because 'Bloodsport' was released by the now-defunct B-movie studio Cannon Films (greatest logo ever) and 'Timecop' was put out by Universal Pictures. Bizarre, I know.
A more suitable double-feature bill, I would argue, would be 'Timecop' and 'Hard Target,' since they were both released by Universal and produced, oddly enough, by filmmaker Sam Raimi. They were even released in subsequent years. But under-heralded 'Hard Target' actually has some level of artistry, and (as noted several times in 'JCVD') is noteworthy as the English language debut of Hong Kong director John Woo (as well as for going through 17 cuts with the MPAA before securing an R-rating).
But back to the movie, er, movies at hand. Actually, let's not even talk about 'Bloodsport.' The movie is so bone-headed and bombastic that it's not even worth discussing. If you're wondering if it has aged well – it has not. And it hasn't taken on another dimension of cult sentimentality, either. It lacks the wit and energy of something like 'Road House,' and is too serious and grisly for anyone looking for anything besides people getting kicked in the head, to find appealing. If you love fighting, watch 'Bloodsport.' Anyone else should be directed elsewhere in the Muscles from Brussels' oeuvre, like the underrated 'Die Hard'-in-a-hockey-stadium thriller 'Sudden Death.' That, at least, has Powers Boothe flagrantly chewing scenery.
We're really here to discuss 'Timecop,' a movie that I found absolutely befuddling this time around. I mean, beyond the failure of the basic plot mechanics of the film. You see, it takes place in a time where time travel has been invented and there are nefarious people using it for very nefarious means. In an early, more arresting sequence in the film, some time interlopers rob a cavalry of Confederate gold, using high tech weapons. Okay, cool right? This is going somewhere. Except that it doesn't.
Because, just like alternate 1985 in 'Back to the Future II,' there's a parallel story that hamstrings any of the kind of gee-whiz techno coolness of 'Timecop.' This story is one of JCVD, who is a cop named Max Walker (yes, seriously) who gets recruited by the time agency to be a Timecop. Except that, of course, his wife is killed by people associated with the time travel technology and it sets him on a quest for vengeance. This plot thread, at some point, reconciles itself with the "bad guys rampaging through time" element, which includes the work of a slimy senator played by the dearly departed Ron Silver.
None of this makes any kind of sense, of course, but even greater inconsistencies arise. Take, for instance, the time travel technology. We're shown that you have to get into a rig, which looks kind of like a carnival ride crossed with the vehicles from 'Star Tours,' which shoots you into a void, at which point you pop up at some designated spot in time. EXCEPT THAT THE VEHICLE ISN'T THERE. Where did it go? And when you come BACK to the time travel center, you come back in the vehicle? I don't get it. At all.
'Timecop' is just as lousy a movie as 'Bloodsport,' although infinitely more watchable, thanks to the visual oomph the mostly overlooked director Peter Hyams brings to the project, some neat-o (but still dated) set pieces, and the fact that you get to see Mia Sara, Sloane from 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off,' naked (fake boobs though – boo). Still, this double feature falls way short of an earlier Warner Bros. release – 'The Last Boy Scout' and 'Last Man Standing.' Now there's an expert pairing!
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Both action-packed films are squeezed onto a single, region-free 50GB Blu-ray disc. It's amazing one disc can handle so many kicks to the face!
Things are a little fuzzy when it comes to the VC-1 1080p transfers (aspect ratios: 1.78:1 for 'Bloodsport' and 2.35:1 for 'Timecop'), and I mean that quite literally: the image softness on these transfers is very gauzy and noticeable.
Not that I was expecting 'Avatar'-like levels of controlled video precision, but what I did want was a noticeable upgrade from the grainy VHS and DVD releases that preceded it. And I guess that I got that, to a degree, but to an even bigger degree it's more of the same.
'Bloodsport' looks the worst of the two, but that probably has to do with the movie's cheapness and the fact that it came out way earlier than 'Timecop,' which, while it doesn't exactly blow away 'Bloodsport,' looks handsomer overall. Each movie suffers from wonky skin tones (in both movies the humans seem to take on a George Hamilton-esque orange tint), to weak black levels, and excessive amounts of grain. Again: I wasn't looking for crystalline clarity but something a little better than "flickering across a cable channel" would have been nice.
There are moments when 'Timecop' did make me say: "Huh, that looks pretty good." Most of these are during the old timey sequences, either the Civil War sequence at the beginning or a prolonged action sequence set in Prohibition Era Chicago. But these were fleeting moments that didn't do much to bolster my overall appraisal of the visual presentation.
On the music side of things, the movies don't fare much better. Again, 'Timecop' is marginally better, if only because it gets equipped with a serviceable, lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, while 'Bloodsport' has a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 lossless stereo mix. Again, if you didn't know, you probably couldn't tell, there's just a bit more body in 'Timecop's audio mix.
Neither mix is particularly heavy on atmospherics or ambience, things that would deliver a nice, full-bodied surround sound experience. Instead, they're mostly front-and-center affairs with bursts of sonic activity thanks to loud-ass sound effects and the occasionally noisy action sequence.
They get the job done, in the same way that the slightly above-broadcast video transfers get the job done, but you're not going to be listening to these things, shocked at the clarity and body with which the mixes were produced. They just kind of are, never rising above the mediocrity of the movies they're coupled with.
Like I said, 'Bloodsport' is flatter, with large bursts of sound effects, but little in the way of subtlety or directional effects. 'Timecop' is a more full, but that may just because of the variety of the sequences in 'Timecop' – like the aforementioned western and gangster sequences – while 'Bloodsport' is pretty doggedly committed to the sound of people walloping each other.
Certainly don't let the sound mix factor into your decision of whether or not to pick up this too-expensive-for-what-it-is double feature.
Also included is a French Dolby Digital Mono mix for 'Bloodsport' and subtitles for both in English SDH, French and Spanish.
There are no extras on this release.
I'm not even sure these films should benefit from the label of "Guilty Pleasure." There's too much guilt and not enough pleasure in these two rock-em-sock-em genre pictures. 'Bloodsport' is just boring and cheap, and 'Timecop' just left me confused. But if you're a big fan of these films (or of the aura of JCVD), you can probably find this disc for under $20. It's just that the sub-par audio and video, and lack of any extras whatsoever, doesn't make it any more appetizing. I'd say skip it, unless your threshold for cheesy action theatrics is almost superhuman.