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  Mega Time Squad Multiple CountsBuy this film here.
Year: 2018
Director: Tim van Dammen
Stars: Anton Tennet, Jonny Brugh, Hetty Gaskell-Hahn, Arlo Gibson, Milo Cawthorne, Tian Tan, Mohi Critchley, Mick Innes, Morgan Albrecht, Yoson An, Jaya Beach-Robertson, Josh McKenzie, Axl Scott, Paul Trimmer, Simon Ward, Eru Wilton, Ashley Jones, Lewis Roscoe
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: It started like an ordinary day for petty criminal and gang underling John (Anton Tennet), collecting debts for his boss Shelton (Jonny Brugh) and taking them back to his place in the New Zealand town of Thames. He doesn't get a warm reception, because Shelton is a real bully, but things get worse when he starts going off on one about the Triads encroaching on his territory, and what he can do to stop it. He decides to send John and his pal over to the heart of the Triads' business, an antiques shop, to steal a small fortune from them which should theoretically cut off their plans, but while they are there John picks up a bracelet the owner warns him not to use - with very good reason.

It was time travel time again, a trope used so often you half expected to see films with Doc Brown bumping into Bill and Ted as the timelines were hopelessly tangled, but New Zealand is not somewhere the vast majority of temporal travellers would ever venture, so you would assume, therefore John is in no danger of getting even more confused than he was already. Surprisingly, on using the bracelet (he pushes a glowing green button on its side), he attunes to the dynamics of the process with some speed, though if he did not it would be a lot longer of a film than it was, clocking in at under an hour and a half in an example of great economy on what looked like slender means.

As Shane Carruth discovered with Primer (which must have been an influence), one benefit of a time travel yarn is you don't need a lot of money to realise it as science fiction, you mainly need a well-thought out script, and that was what writer and director Tim van Dammen had devised here. For all its macho posturing and would-be lack of sentimentality in its treatment of its characters, as it progressed it revealed a more tender heart than initially apparent, developing what was an unexpectedly sweet romance amidst the mayhem. This had the effect of rendering the experience considerably more endearing had this stuck to a hard science fiction technique of its time jumping.

Well, it wasn't science fiction at all, it was fantasy since there was a bit of martial arts backstory to explain the rules of this setup. Seems the bracelet does indeed have incredible powers which enables multiple versions of John to exist simultaneously, but there is a major drawback: use it too much and a demon will hunt you down, wiping you from the various dimensions completely - so of course our hero becomes more or less addicted to the process and generates his own gang to get back at Shelton, named The Mega Time Squad of the title. Having more than one of the main character can of course render his clones disposable, offering the opportunity for van Dammen to have a field day with destroying his protagonist as the crime boss fights back against this new threat.

In that manner, as with a lot of computer age science fiction and fantasy, there was something of the computer game about the narrative, with John getting "lives" to collect through the story and losing them too, naturally, as events draw to a head. What was nice was that while the dialogue was very sweary in a manner redolent of its homeland, colourful in a manner that prompted a fair number of decent laughs, there was that romance too which redeemed the previously selfish John, who we watched growing more intelligent as the twists mounted up. Kelly (Hetty Gaskell-Hahn) is one of Shelton's lackeys, crafting him a suicide bomb vest (Shelton isn't that sharp either, you come to realise) that he wants to use for leverage in his schemes, and both her and John teaming up to overcome what is basically a manipulative bully is genuinely cheering. If even at this level you feel it could have been yet more complex, Mega Time Squad remained a neat little effort without a weak link in its construction. Eighties-style music by Mike Newport.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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