Jonny (Anton Tennet) is a low level delivery guy for local drug dealer, Shelton (Jonny Brugh), but has aspirations to greatness. He tries to double cross his boss for a whole lot of loot but the plan backfires and now he has a target on his back. But, an ancient Chinese talisman bracelet he took during the double-X proves to be a time portal and Jonny thinks he has a way to get his ill-gotten gains – and continue to live - in “Mega Time Squad.”
For any science-fiction fan, traversing the space-time continuum is one of those things that we take very seriously in our crime caper/time travel/slapstick comedy movies. Sophomore director/scribe Tim Van Dammen - his first film, “Romeo and Juliet – A Love Song (2013),” set the Bard’s classic romance as a rock opera in a trailer park – takes on this sci-fi genre and, mostly, gets clever with the continuum.
When Johnny is about to be taken down by Shelton’s henchmen and there is a tussle, a button on the bracelet is pushed. Suddenly, he is where he was before but the when is different and he is alone. He hides out in an abandoned caravan – and sees himself. The other Jonny tells him “push the button, you’ll know when.” This is where Van Dammen has some good fun as he blithely violates the cardinal rule in time travel – do not meet yourself.
The filmmaker and his cast and crew cleverly use the digital technology to multiply the many Jonnies that form the titular gang. The fast-paced, screwball antics of the performers, playful use of time travel and plain old good nature make “Mega Time Squad” a lot of fun. I, a long time sci-fi fan, do have one or two problems about the liberties taken with time travel (like there is any authority on the subject...well, Isaac Asimov, of course). But, though the film kind of ran out of steam toward the end, its foul-language humor, comic mayhem, goofy and likable characters and sci-fi roots make for some hearty laughs. I give it a B-.
Local crime lord Shelton (Jonny Brugh, “What We Do in the Shadows”) doesn’t think Thames, New Zealand is big enough for both him and Wah Lee’s (Tian Tan) new Chinese enterprise. He tasks Johnny (Anton Tennet) with robbing the new gang in an effort to run them out of town. But an unusual bracelet catches Johnny’s eye while he’s holding up Wah Lee Antiques and despite Lee’s warning about the demon attached to it, Johnny takes it and discovers, during a critical moment, that it has given him the ability to turn himself into a “Mega Time Squad.”
This goofy, good natured time-travel crime comedy hails from many of the folks involved with the cult hit “Deathgasm,” including writer/director Tim van Dammen. The concept has been done before, and better, most notably by “Colossal’s” Nacho Vigalondo in “Time Crimes,” but Dammen’s gang that literally can’t shoot straight is so clueless, rooting for his bumbling protagonist proves an entertaining, if trifling, amusement.
Once Johnny and his mate Gaz (Arlo Gibson) ‘flog the pickup,’ he’s quite shocked to learn Shelton now wants him dead. But his executioner’s bullet fires backwards, hitting Terry (Eru Wilton) in the eye and allowing Johnny to flee in the confusion. He jumps into an abandoned camper to evade his pursuers and finds himself already there, the second Johnny advising him to ‘push the button.’ Sure enough, every time Johnny pushes on a green bead on his bracelet, he’s not only shuttled back minutes in time, but creates yet another iteration of himself.
But Shelton’s not the only one hunting Johnny down. Lee’s flunkie, Wen (Yoson An), finds Johnny and demands the return of their money, threatening to shoot Kelly (Hetty Gaskell-Hahn), Johnny’s new crush (and Shelton’s sister), if it’s not returned. With the cash heavily guarded in Shelton’s basement, Johnny decides to rob a bank. It goes hilariously wrong.
There are more laughs to be had in character and throwaway details than the film’s high concept. Robbery accessory shopping, Johnny finds a black balaclava too expensive and so purchases duck and baboon masks. Johnny’s first private moment with Kelly happens when she runs across him in the cemetery visiting his parents’ graves, and so he offers her the beer he’d given dad. Gaz thinks he’s cool having painted ‘DO’ and ‘PE’ on the toes of his trainers - until he crosses his legs. The best use of the film’s time travel concept happens late in the game, multiple Johnnys evading Shelton’s goons in his home as Shelton observes on security cameras.
Tennet does a nice take on the lovable loser with Brugh a bellowing bully. The film also stars Milo Cawthorne as Damage, Axl Scott as Gibbo and Jaya Beach-Robertson as the sullen Hootch.
“Mega Time Squad” has its moments but it’s far from essential. It will most likely benefit from viewers indulging in recreational substances.
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