Tim Van Damme‘s Mega Time Squad, which just showed at Fantasia 2018, is a hilarious romp, a time-travel comedy that mixes action with the supernatural.
The film, set in Thames, follows John (Anton Tennet): a petty thief who’s about to be evicted from an old woman’s garage and works for a local “gangster.” The gangster, Shelton (Jonny Brugh), looks like an 80’s car dealer. Mega Time Squad is heavily indebted to the late-70’s and early-80’s, as the film features a synth driven soundtrack and Kung Fu film references.
John, to put it lightly, is dimwitted. Betrayed by his equally dimwitted friend after they steal money from the Triads to double cross Shelton, he comes into contact with a magical and cursed Chinese bracelet. The bracelet allows John to travel into time, and with each travel backwards, a copy of himself from the previous time is created. Him and his clones form their own Mega Time Squad, and become a gang of sorts.
Mega Time Squad reminds me of Groundhog Day and Gomorrah (2008), the great Italian gangster film directed by Matteo Gaarrone. Mega Time Squad is certainly more irreverent than Gomorrah, but it does center on a bumbling idiot within an underground world. John is somewhat in the mold of Marco and Ciro, the two wannabe gangsters at the center of Garrone’s film. And much like Marco and Ciro who are influenced by American gangster films, like Scarface, John makes reference to Taxi Driver in a Travis Bickle-esque mirror scene. Both films also depend on the concept of carving out your own racket away from the overseeing boss.
However, unlike Marco and Ciro, John is not by nature a violent person. Indeed, his clones are more violent and cutthroat, taking the extra deal and wanting sole possession of the Triad’s money, who prove to be more like the duo in Gomorrah.
Van Damme, who directed and wrote the film, also brings savvy camera work, such as when the Mega Time Squad raids Shelton’s home. Much like You Were Never Really Here, the sequence mixes standard film shots with surveillance camera footage. The result is reminiscent of Key Stone Cops, as the clones move from room-to-room searching for the money.
But mostly, John is trying to find his “nuts.” The film is about standing up to Shelton, to himself/himselves, and to capture the heart of Shelton’s sister, Kelly (Hetty Gaskell-Hahn). John is a follower, rarely a leader, much like the rest of Shelton’s goons which includes, Damage (Milo Cawthorne), Terry (Eru Wilton), Hootch (Jaya Beach-Robertson), and Gaz (Arlo Gibson). The film is a self-exploration for John, much like superheroes within comic books who have to reach deep within themselves to unlock their true potential. They, like our protagonist, are put through a trial and through that trial they become better people and overcome their fatal flaws. And in an ending car scene that’s reminiscent of Blade Runner, Mega Time Squad becomes an event that should be repeated.