In 1863, in Gainesville, Georgia, a time-traveler slaughters a troop of Confederate soldiers using laser-equipped machine-pistols and steals the gold they were transporting, which was used later to finance arms trafficking. In 1994, George Spota (Scott Lawrence) appears before the Senate Appropriations Committee hoping to establish the Time Enforcement Commission to police time-travel. He shows them evidence of ripples in Time caused by time incursions. Senator Aaron McComb (Ron Silver) volunteers to chair the oversight committees and Eugene Mazurak (Bruce McGill) is to be the first commissioner. DC Metro cop Max Walker (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is offered the job of Time Agent and when his wife is killed he accepts.
Ten years later, he is a veteran and is sent back to 1929 to prevent his former partner Lyle Atwood (Jason Schombing) from using future knowledge to benefit from the US stock market crash. He admits to working for Senator McComb. Afraid that McComb will have him and his whole family erased from Time, he jumps to his death, but Walker catches him and returns with him to 2004. Atwood is found guilty, sentenced to death, and returned to 1929 in mid-fall.
Walker is assigned a new partner, rookie Sarah Fielding (Gloria Reuben) and they are sent to 1994 to investigate McComb, who meets with his partner Jack Parker (Kevin McNulty). But McComb from 2004 interrupts the deal. The older McComb warns the younger not to touch him lest they implode, then kills Parker. Sara Fielding turns on Walker, revealing that she works for McComb. In a shootout with henchmen, Fielding is wounded and Walker escapes to 2004. He arrives in an altered future where McComb is now immensely wealthy and the frontrunner for President. He is trying to shut down the Timecops. Walker convinces Matuzak that Time has changed and they decide that McComb must have acquired his own time machine. Matuzak sends Walker back to restore History, just before being shot to death.
In 1994, Walker finds Janet Fielding in the hospital, but she is murdered too. Walker finds out that his dead wife was pregnant. He finds her and convinces her he is from the future. That night, one Walker saves the other, but the 2004 McComb takes Melissa hostage. He intends to blow up the house, killing himself, but his younger self will still live and become President when Walker is dead. But Walker pushes the two McCombs together and they merge into a screaming mass before disappearing forever. When Walker returns to 2004, he finds both Matuzak and Fielding alive. He returns home to find Melissa alive with their son.
The film was directed by Peter Hyams and written by Mark Verheiden and Mike Richardson, who was also executive producer, based on a Dark Horse Comic created by Richardson, written by Verheiden, and drawn by Ron Randall. It was Van Damme’s highest grossing film and though it was met with mixed reviews, it is considered Van Damme’s best film, for what that’s worth. Critics were not kind. One said that the film was harder to understand than Van Damme’s accent. There was a TV series of the same name that ran for nine episodes, a videogame, and a direct-to-DVD sequel starring Jason Scott Lee. Max’s hairstyle was influenced by Wolverine’s. The Time Tunnel from the Sixties TV show appears on a screen in the computer room. A virtual reality nude scene was supposed to be a nature documentary about beavers, but the film crew got drunk in a strip-bar and missed the bus to the nature reserve, so they filmed one of the dancers.