Quirky sci-fi farce Mega Time Squad sends up all those time-travel tropes

A magic bracelet doubles as a time-traveling device for a down-on-his-luck small-time criminal in the 2018 New Zealand sci-fi comedy . A favorite of the festival circuit, this quirky twist on the time travel genre is finally available in select theaters and on VOD in the United States.

(Mild spoilers below.

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Written and directed by Tim van Dammen, the 90-minute film had screenings last year at the Fantasia International Film Festival and the New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF), earning praise for its sharp, slangy dialogue and clever twist on standard time-travel tropes. Tone-wise, it’s roughly in the same vein as Taika Waititi’s delightful and or the 2012 American Sundance favorite . In other words, it’s an odd, understated, delightful farce, with a touch of sweetness offsetting the zany antics and broad humor.

Our hero, John (Anton Tennet) works as a flunky for local crime boss Shelton (Jonny Brugh, who played one of the vampires in ) and is about to be evicted from the garage he’s been living in. Annoyed that a rival Chinese-triad gang is horning in on his turf, Shelton orders John to steal a money drop at a nearby antiques store. John and his buddy Gaz (Arlo Gibson) decide to steal it for themselves instead.  During the heist, he spots an unusual charm bracelet. Despite the proprietor’s ominous warning, John pockets it and splits with the cash.

So John (who is not the brightest bulb in the tree) is now on the run from Shelton and his bumbling minions, as well as the (far more competent) Chinese triad. Then he discovers that pressing the button on the bracelet transports him back in time. Not by much—just a few minutes, or enough to get him out of a tight spot or two. The catch: every time he pushes the button, it duplicates him. To say any more would spoil the fun.

The premise could easily get tiresome, but somehow van Dammen keeps moving along at a snappy pace, with just enough twists to keep things interesting. That’s even more impressive considering it’s only his second feature film as director; he also wrote and directed the trailer-park rock musical  (2013). Van Dammen produced and directed a number of music videos, and something of that sensibility comes through here, from the ’80s synth-pop soundtrack to the quick cuts and loving homage to Hong Kong action movies.

” celebrates Kiwi-ness, particularly the way Kiwis speak,” van Dammen told NZIFF. “The film is speckled with a fair few four-letter words, but if you chill out and listen to the rhythm, it’s like relaxing profane music. I just hope people can leave their worries at the door, come in and have a laugh.” That’s good advice. Lean into the silly and enjoy the ride.

is now playing in select theaters and on VOD.

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