Messing with time-travel and tempting paradoxes is something we have all seen several times over. Something that we haven’t seen, is how time-travel would play out in the hands of a small-time criminal in Thames, New Zealand. This is exactly what crime-comedy Mega Time Squad is about, and it’s safe to say, nails it. Director Tim van Dammen has us following loser John (Anton Tennet), who gets his hands on an ancient Chinese time-travel bracelet, allowing him to recruit past selves in his criminal pursuits. John and his ‘mega time squad’ of himself will try to steal back some stolen money from local crime lord Shelton (Jonny Brugh). Over the next 79 minutes, be expected to be hear plenty of ‘mean!’s and other four-letter words.
Being able to achieve the desired outcome with time-travel on his side, Mega Time Squad has John trying to get the girl, who happens to be Shelton’s sister (Hetty Gaskell-Hahn) deal with the Chinese time-demon hunting him, and recover the money that isn’t his. The thing is, all these criminals are inept, but John gets to try again and again with his bracelet. Seeing John arguing with himself makes for many an entertaining scene, despite both sides of the argument having the same insults and attitudes, usually coming down to whether he has ‘nuts’ or not.
A glance at the movie poster gives off huge ‘80s vibes, and not in the shitty cram-packed way that Ready Player One does. Just a few nods of subtle appreciation is the sensible way of showing your influences, such as the rubber animal masks in the initial heist feeling like a level of “Hotline Miami”, rather than a constant stream of references. The soundtrack sounds nicely synthy without sounding too derivative, as ‘80s fetishisation is wont to do. It is a modern film, set in modern-day New Zealand, and it is sure to not lose sight of that even with their ‘80s appreciation.
The montages of John prepping for a heist or showdown manage to highlight his ideas of what criminals are like, as do all other interactions with Shelton’s goons. Shelton has delusions of being a far bigger kingpin than he actually is. He already bribes one dopey police officer and deals with Chinese gangs, so he’s a pretty big deal when it comes to Thames’s criminal underworld. His goons give themselves names like ‘Damage’ because they think it sounds threatening, but then talk about how they can’t wait to tell their mum about the crazy shit they saw that day. Every criminal character is just trying to appear a lot tougher than they actually are, including John. Other secondary characters are no less hilarious, with John’s conspiracy theorist mate who lives in a shipping container and the lisping seedy motel owner also providing several laughs.
Being a crime movie set in New Zealand, Mega Time Squad’s approach to gun usage is humorous and pretty accurate – they misfire, bullets ricochet, the goons don’t really know how to use them, and rifles usually belong to their mums. Other classic Kiwi tropes may translate overseas less well (why do they love pies so much?) but the quirky Kiwi humour has found success internationally before, so there’s no reason why it should stop here.