Mega Time Squad
"Van Dammen has bitten off much more than he can chew and lacks the experience to spit some of it out, but it's largely his ambition that makes things interesting."

There's something to be said for talking to oneself: at least that way one is talking to somebody who cares. That's the theory, anyway. When John (Anton Tennet) is let down once too often by the friends and petty criminals he hangs around with, he decides he's happier in his own company. But after he's carelessly made multiple copies of himself using an ancient Chinese time travel device, he begins to realise that he might not like himself as much as he thought.

Tim van Dammen's high concept, low budget adventure yarn does for 21st Century time travel what Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure did for it 30 years earlier, playing fast and loose with the rules by dint of having a protagonist who's not a fan of thinking too hard, yet retaining an impressive degree of internal consistency despite this. It's presented with a deadpan New Zealand humour that neatly undercuts the sillier elements of the plot. Tennet makes a likeable lead, his befuddled hero entertaining for viewers even when he's annoying himself and other characters, and there's an excellent turn from Jonny Brugh in the difficult role of a local gang leader, managing to remain engaging even when he's trying to kill our hero(es).

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The biggest challenge van Dammen faces is finding enough story to tell beyond the time-travel shenanigans and keeping this consistent enough to carry the audience along even when the action becomes confusing. Wisely, he keeps this simple, focusing on a drug heist gone wrong and John's attempts to recover the money so he can avoid being killed by much more powerful Chinese gangsters (kept out of sight for most of the running time). There's also a sub-plot based around John's interest in a young woman who works for his original boss, but there's none of the creepiness of About Time here, and when he does mistreat her she wastes no time in calling him out. Van Dammen is equally sharp when it comes to the Chinese elements, with John bluntly deprived of the wise old mentor he might have hoped for in a more formulaic film.

Despite these insights and some good character work, the film does drag a little in places. Van Dammen has bitten off much more than he can chew and lacks the experience to spit some of it out, but it's largely his ambition that makes things interesting. He gets away with a lot more than one would expect. Whenever the central drama loses momentum there's a good supply of jokes to keep the audience happy and these fit naturally into the social milieu in which the story is set.

An audience favourite at several of the festivals where it has played, Mega Time Squad is probably best watched with friends and a few beers, not because it's bad but because it benefits from company. It's not wholly successful at what it's trying to do but it's a bold effort, it's a lot of fun and you're not likely to see anything else like it for quite some time.

Reviewed on: 16 May 2019
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Mega Time Squad packshot
A petty drug dealer with a once in a lifetime opportunity to pull off a big score unexpectedly gains the ability to bend time.
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Director: Tim Van Dammen

Writer: Tim Van Dammen

Starring: Anton Tennet, Arlo Gibson, Johnny Brugh, Milo Cawthrone

Year: 2018

Runtime: 81 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: New Zealand

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