Every now and again, I lower my expectations distinctly for straight-to-DVD release like this. Backtrace. They’re not aiming for a Hollywood budget, and thus, can sometimes recoup their costs and even spawn sequels like my worst movie of 2018, Escape Plan 2: Hades… also with Sylvester Stallone.
However, I go into each movie with an open mind and a hope that things will improve.
Mac (Matthew Modine) escapes a shootout with other dodgy bad guys in the opening scene, at an area later attended by cop Sykes (Stallone), and then fast-forward to seven years later when the former is in a psychiatric unit with a dodgy memory of past events. Somewhere along the way, he has a son who may or may not be dead… don’t worry – that’s not a mystery to be solved, it’s just that the film wasn’t the least bit clear either way.
I remember Christopher McDonald (who plays FBI bod Franks) in a great role as Geena Davis’ other half in the brilliant Thelma And Louise, as well as a baddie in Charlie Sheen’s hugely enjoyable 1994 actioner Terminal Velocity, but he hardly seems to have been in anything else the past 25 years. Checking IMDB, okay, he’s been in a lot, but very little to write home about.
In the second half, Mac is getting the headache from hell, which are also a way for him to remember the past so other bad guys can find out exactly what went down on the day of the opening shootout. He stumbles around, overacting badly. Not many people will have played the PC game The Thin Silence, but they really should and I mention it here because a similar thing happened to the lead character as he pieced some memories together.
There’s double-crossing from an unlikely source – if you’ve NEVER seen a movie like this(!) – and one of the baddies has a Motorola clamshell phone which must be the last ever one in use in the entire universe (I’ll never get over the time when Sam Mitchell used one in the Queen Vic in Eastenders, talking to someone on the phone while… it was closed).
Add in a scene where two baddies loudly talk in an echoing building and give away all their plans, whilst the police are in the same building, listening to all their confessions; as well as a bad guy with a shotgun which looks like it should only be able to fire off two shells without reloading, yet can somehow fire off 300 without question. In fact, most guns are like this in this film.
On the one time in the film where Stallone actually steps out of his office, going out into the field to shoot the bad guys, he doesn’t just shoot them in the leg once and then arrest them, but shoots them 100 times through the chest. He basically judges them without the necessity of a court trial (like Judge Dredd) or moving any facial features (like modern-day Stallone). Seriously, though, when it comes to making such decisions, he’ll happily bend the law to suit himself, even though he’s hot on pursuing the bad guys(!)
Plus, the director can never manage to keep the camera still, regularly circling around people talking in any two-hander scene, for example.
Backtrace plays out like an overlong single episode of a TV series – and runs twice as long as it needs to, so only giving a small amount of info in its running time, which would normally have the promise of more to come, but no, this is it, and everything that’s here has been done before, and all much better, making this film both lazy and boring.
In the end, will the baddies manage to escape the cops? I promise you: No-one will care. Everyone involved has completely wasted their time, along with 88 of your minutes.
NOTE: This review is for the film only.
Running time: 88 minutes
Studio: Signature Entertainment
Director: Brian A Miller
Producers: Randall Emmett, George Furla, Matt Luber, Mark Stewart
Screenplay: Mike Maples
Sykes: Sylvester Stallone
Macdonald: Matthew Modine
Erin: Meadow Williams
Lucas: Ryan Guzman
Franks: Christopher McDonald
Detective Carter: Colin Egglesfield
Sec. Guard Alicia: Baylee Curran
Truby: Swen Temmel
Detective Bay: Jenna Willis
Sara: Heather Johansen
Farren: Tyler Jon Olson
Dr. Nichols: Lydia Hull
Melissa: Tamara Belous
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.