Mega Time Squad Review
Welcome to Thames, New Zealand. Population: 7,518 – and falling. Unless of course you’re Johnny (Anton Tennet), the new member of a local gang led by Shelton (Jonathan Brugh, What We Do in the Shadows). He’s multiplying.
In Tim Van Dammen's own words, "Its an absurd time travel crime comedy with a big heart about a loveable rural idiot with modest aspirations who uses a time travel bracelet to steal the money needed to fulfil his dream of moving to the neighbouring town… but he fucks up the time travelling bit".
Johnny (Anton Tennet) is an idiot. He’s part of a gang working for a small time crook Shelton (Jonathan Brugh) in Thames, New Zealand. Shelton wants his gang to steal money from the local Chinese gang to show them who is boss, but Johnny and his friend decide to rip off Shelton and set up their own gang. In doing so, Johnny also steals a Chinese bracelet meant for the girl he is starting to fall in love with, Shelton’s sister Kelly (Hetty Gaskell-Hahn). However when he is caught and then chased by Shelton’s gang, Johnny realises that the bracelet has 'powers’, - when you ‘push the button’ it sends you back in time. Now Johnny finds there are multiple versions of himself and decides to set up his own gang. Only trouble is, not only are Shelton and the Chinese after him, but a demon is too.
Mega Time Squad comes in a nice package from Arrow Video, Director Tim Van Dammen has put together a goofy sci-fi comedy, which at a brisk 80 minutes doesn’t outstay its welcome.
I love Kiwi genre films. They are possibly my favourite go-to films for some light-hearted fun. Some of my favourites include Peter Jackson’s Braindead and What We Do In The Shadows and having such a similar sense of humour to us Brits they come across a quite charming and quirky. The whole time travel aspect isn’t particularly original or clever, it reminded me a bit of Nacho Vigalondo's Timecrimes, but taken a lot less seriously. In Mega Time Squad, it is funny to see multiple versions of the same idiot character making the same idiotic mistakes.
There is the aforementioned demon knocking at the proverbial door to keep the whole thing moving forward but at its heart, this film is all about trying to make the best version of yourself, and along with the time travel aspect, this is taken quite literally.
Mega Time Squad does come with a few niggly points. First, the introduction of Kelly making a bomb vest I felt was possibly a bit tasteless, but it only seemed to be there to allow a pay-off later, where maybe something else, potentially a bit more clever could have been inserted. It’s also tricky to keep the slightness of the plot moving at times, but it was great to see all of these Kiwi actors that I recognised from other films being given fun things to do (such as Deathgasm's Milo Hawthorne). The actors are having a great time and Mike Newport’s synth score is fun and retro. It doesn’t take itself seriously at all. This is the perfect film to watch with your mates, pizza and beer, it is very very silly and leaves you with a smile on your face. If you have no mates, you can always head down to your local mystical Chinese store, grab a bracelet and ‘push the button’?
Sound and vision are fine, if nothing amazing to write home about. Because of the low budget, Van Dammen had to shoot the film as static as possible for all the visual effects to work. This gives the film reason to move in the edit, which it does admirably well. The sound in a 5.1 mix is again fine, but nothing earth shattering. This is not a film you would pick up for as a reference disc.
Extras on this Arrow release include a commentary by writer/director Van Dammen. It is a bit start/stop with Van Dammen admitting that he is new to the whole audio commentary thing. He often ends up just watching the film, rather than telling us anything about it. Better is the Frightfest presents interview, where Van Dammen again talks about the genesis of his project with Paul McEvoy who is clearly besotted by the film. There is quite a lot of crossover between this and the commentary but there just seems to be a bit more energy infused into this interview.
Finally there is a stills gallery and a booklet with new writing on the film by Anton Bitel. Bitel's booklet is very nicely written, referencing a lot of the films mentioned above, and also cited others that fans of the film should hunt down and watch.
Mega Time Squad has good energy, lots of quirk and a lot of heart. The slightness lets it down a bit in terms of where it could have gone, but it's certainly a film I will revisit time and again.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
- High Definition Blu-ray™ (1080p) presentation
- Original 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and uncompressed stereo PCM soundtracks
- 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio music and effects track
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary by director Tim van Dammen
- Mega Time Squad: The FrightFest TV interview, director Tim van Dammen talks to FrightFest's Paul McEvoy
- Extensive image galleries
- Original trailers
- Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anton Bitel