Mega Time Squad (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Arrow Video
Review written by and copyright: Paul Lewis (9th June 2019).
The Film

Mega Time Squad (Tim van Dammen, 2018)

Synopsis: Orphaned slacker Johnny (Anton Tennet) is used as a runner by suburban kingpin Shelton (Johnny Brugh). However, Johnny has eyes for Shelton’s sister, Kelly (Hetty Gaskell-Hahn), who is building a suicide vest for her brother to use in his escapades. Angered at the moves the Triads are making on his territory, Shelton sends Johnny, with Johnny’s friend Gaz (Arlo Gibson), on a mission to disrupt the Triads’ activities, which centre on an antique shop run by the elderly Wah Lee (Tian Tan).

Johnny and Gaz decide to rob Wah Lee’s shop and keep the money for themselves. During the robbery, Johnny decides to help himself to a bracelet, taking it despite Wah Lee’s warnings: ‘Listen. Temporal dislocator. Very dangerous. If use it, Taotie will come. The demon will consume you’.

Johnny soon discovers that Gaz has double-crossed him, and in a derelict building he is ambushed by Shelton and his goons. Shelton orders one of his thugs to kill Johnny, but Johnny manages to escape and flees to a nearby abandoned caravan in which he encounters a clone of himself. Johnny #2 tells Johnny to ‘Push the button’, and Johnny presses a concealed button on the bracelet he stole from Wah Lee. He discovers that doing so transports him into the past, where he finds that he is now Johnny #2 who tells himself (future Johnny) to activate the bracelet.

Johnny discovers that every time he presses the button on the bracelet, he is transported a short distance into the past, thus creating another ‘version’ of himself. He meets up with Kelly, who tells Johnny where Shelton has hidden the money stolen from Wah Lee’s antiques shop. Determined to ‘liberate’ the money from Shelton, Johnny seeks the assistance of his friend Jay (Simon Ward), who tells Johnny of the legend of the Wah Lee bracelet – which, hundreds of years previously, helped one of Wah Lee’s ancestors defeat a series of enemies, but at the cost of being pursued by the demon Taotie, ‘Known for eating everything in sight and then itself, just like my ex-wife’.

Meanwhile, Johnny is pursued by the Triads, who want their money back. Caught between Shelton and the Triads, Johnny hides out with Kelly in a hotel in Paeroa. However, the various iterations of Johnny begin to argue amongst themselves over both Kelly and the money, and Shelton’s goons catch wind of where Johnny has gone to ground.

Critique: At least ostensibly wildly different from director Tim van Dammen’s previous feature, 2013’s Romeo and Juliet: A Love Song, Mega Time Squad does, however, share with that picture a screwball sense of humour. Fitting into the vein of irreverent New Zealand-made exploitation films that was initiated by Death Warmed Up (David Blyth) in 1984 and continued through the work of Peter Jackson (Bad Taste in 1987 and Braindead in 1992), Mega Time Squad marries genre high jinks with often vulgar humour. It also contains various nods to other films and genres: there’s more than a hint of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Stephen Herek, 1989) in this story of a time-slipping slacker; and the Chinese demon that threatens to pursue Johnny in his adventures through time is reminiscent of the metaphorical demon that haunts Bruce Lee (Jason Scott Lee) in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (Rob Cohen, 1993). Elsewhere, the film alludes to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) when Johnny mimics Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro): looking at himself in the mirror, Johnny questions his masculinity by asking, ‘Whose nuts are they?’ The scene culminates in Johnny’s decision to go against Shelton: ‘Are you gonna be Shelton’s bitch forever?’, he asks his reflection.

Mega Time Squad has an interesting sense of geography and a strong use of story-spaces: from the suburban home of its antagonist, Shelton, to the derelict building in which Johnny first discovers the stolen artifact’s time-shifting abilities. The film’s climax takes place in Paeroa before moving back to the suburban home of the villain. Shelton’s suburban home, and what it represents (stability, chiefly), is ultimately what Johnny desires: shortly after the film opens, we discover that Johnny is an orphan who has been renting a room at the home of Mrs Walters. However, she intends to throw Johnny out to make room for her own son. ‘How did he get to where he is?’, Gaz asks Johnny near the start of the film, in relation to Shelton. ‘It’s easy’, Johnny answers, ‘He just said “Fuck it” and started looking after numero uno’. This revelation is followed by Johnny and Gaz’s decision to steal the money from Wah Lee, thus going against Shelton, and in doing so demonstrate the instinct for self-gratification that has led Shelton to ‘get to where he is’. After Johnny realises he has been betrayed by Gaz, and following his discovery of the artifact’s ability to allow its owner to shift in time, Johnny begins to do the same – creating multiple versions of himself in the same timeline in order to achieve what he wants (the money and the girl, Kelly). However, as the film nears its climax, the various Johnnys begin to take ‘looking after numero uno’ to the extreme: in the hotel room in Paeroa, Johnny begins to make love to Kelly but is interrupted when the other Johnnys arrive. Eventually, the five versions of Johnny argue with each other: they don’t trust one another with either the money or Kelly. ‘Let go of my missus’, one of the Johnnys tells another when he grabs hold of Kelly; ‘She’s my missus’, the other Johnny responds.

The time travel plot is fairly inventive, though not on the level of Shane Carruth’s ultra-low budget time travel picture Primer (2004). Nevertheless, van Dammen manages to carry this aspect of the narrative with what must have been fairly limited resources. However, the characters may be a problem for some: Johnny is a prototypical underdog but whether the viewer responds positively may depend on her/his tolerance for (or appreciation of) Bill & Ted-esque stoner/slacker characters for whom ‘bro’ is the most frequent form of address. Compared against Death Warmed Up, the film that is often credited with creating the New Zealand exploitation picture, one might find oneself wishing for the chutzpah and nihilism of the earlier film.

Video

Running for 79:15 mins, Mega Time Squad fills approximately 24Gb of space on a dual-layered Blu-ray disc. The 1080p presentation uses the AVC codec and is in the film’s intended aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Mega Time Squad was shot digitally. As a compressed digital ‘clone’ of a digitally shot feature, this presentation is very good. Detail is excellent and contrast levels are very pleasing: as a digitally shot film, the dynamic range is noticeably shorter than that of a film shot on celluloid, with highlights sometimes blooming slightly, but this Blu-ray presentation is true to source. Colours are naturalistic and consistent. The encode to disc presents no problems.



Full-sized screengrabs are included at the bottom of this review. Please click to enlarge them.

Audio

Audio options are: (i) a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track; and (ii) a LPCM 2.0 stereo track. Both tracks are rich and clear, with dialogue being audible throughout. The 5.1 track has added sound separation, which comes alive in the more action-oriented scenes. Optional English subtitles for the Hard of Hearing are provided. These are easy to read and accurate in transcribing the film’s dialogue.

Extras

The disc includes
- An audio commentary with director Tim van Dammen. Van Dammen offers a detailed commentary track that explores the genesis of Mega Time Squad: van Dammen wrote the picture at a time when he had very little money and wanted to make a film with only one actor, but the project evolved and became a more complicated endeavour. Van Dammen reflects on how the film was financed, discusses the contributions of the various cast members, and talks about his approach to directing the film. He confesses that as the script was one of the first he wrote, he ‘overwrote’ the jokes and in the editing of the film, he cut out about 25-30 minutes-worth of jokes.

- Music and Effects Track (DTS 5.1).

- Mega Time Squad Frightfest TV Interview (7:34). Van Dammen is interviewed by Paul McEvoy at Frightfest. It’s a brief interview which only really gives van Dammen time to scratch the surface of the picture, outlining its general themes and giving some quick reflections on the origins and production of the film.

- Trailers: Original Trailer (2:14); UK Trailer (1:45).

- Gallery (5:30)
.

Overall

Mega Time Squad is inventive and, with a very brief running time for a feature-length film, doesn’t outstay its welcome. Its emphasis on slacker/stoner humour sometimes feels a little arch and forced, and van Dammen’s ‘confession’ on the comedy track that he ‘overwrote’ the jokes and had to cut about half an hour of them from the finished picture perhaps explains/contextualises this. Nevertheless, there’s an energy to the film and Johnny is a likeable protagonist – albeit an incredibly dumb one, played very well by Anton Tennet (again in the commentary, van Dammen explains that Tennet captured that ‘dumb’ aspect of Johnny perfectly).

Arrow’s Blu-ray release of Mega Time Squad is solid, providing a pleasing presentation of the digitally-shot feature alongside a very good commentary track by van Dammen and some good promotional material.


Please click to enlarge.
vlcsnap-2019-06-09-22h23m42s329
vlcsnap-2019-06-09-22h23m46s551
vlcsnap-2019-06-09-22h24m16s330
vlcsnap-2019-06-09-22h24m29s173
vlcsnap-2019-06-09-22h24m49s093
vlcsnap-2019-06-09-22h24m59s645
vlcsnap-2019-06-09-22h25m07s664
vlcsnap-2019-06-09-22h25m25s055



EDIT (10/06/19): A slight amendment has been made to the text of the review to correct the release date of BAD TASTE (from 1989 to 1987), as the review text originally cited the US release date (1989) for Jackson's film.

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.