A police psychiatrist gets the chance to go back in time to prevent a murder in RETROACTIVE, a fast-paced thriller that runs out of steam before it ends.
Working alone in an isolated lab in rural Texas, government scientist Brian (Frank Whaley) has discovered how to reverse time for brief periods. Nearby, Karen (Kylie Travis) is on the road after quitting her job as a police psychiatrist when a hostage situation she was negotiating turned into a
massacre. When her car breaks down, she is picked up by Frank (James Belushi), a small-time crook, and his tense wife Rayanne (Shannon Whirry). When he learns from truckstop owner Sam (M. Emmet Walsh) that Rayanne has been seeing another man, Frank shoots her to death. Before he can shoot her too,
Karen escapes into Brian's lab, and is caught up in a test run that sends her 20 minutes into the past.
Attempting to defuse the situation as it replays, Karen instead escalates it, and several other people are killed along with Rayanne. She returns to Brian's lab and convinces him to accompany her on another trip back. The results are even more dire. Trying to save Karen from Frank, who is
perplexed at her knowledge of certain things, Brian blurts out the potential of his machine. In another run, they are all sent back, though the weakening machine is only able to move them 10 minutes, not enough time for Karen and Frank to save any of the victims of Frank's increasingly murderous
spree. Karen persuades Brian to send them back 60 minutes, even though to do so will destroy the machine. This time, Karen refuses to accept Frank's offer of help, setting off a different chain of events in which Frank is killed by Rayanne.
Most films about time travel make the mistake of letting too much creep into their exposition, a fatal mistake given that you can't possibly make plausible such an inherently illogical activity. RETROACTIVE has the sense to keep moving at a quick enough clip that the viewer doesn't have time to
ponder the logical flaws of what he's seeing. It's also to the film's benefit that the script isn't ambitious enough to play too much with the metaphysical aspects of attempting to change the past: it wants nothing more than to be a bracing thriller with an unusual premise. (It might, however,
have done a bit more with the comical aspect of a situation that gets worse rather than better the harder professional hostage negotiator Karen tries to mend it.) RETROACTIVE's biggest problem is its weak, anticlimactic ending. Even if the filmmakers couldn't concoct a juicier plot twist, it would
have helped immeasurably had they shown us the turn of events in which long-suffering Rayanne (a good performance by former sexploitation star Shannon Whirry), who gets killed several times during the film, gets to triumph. (Violence, profanity.)
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- Released: 1998
- Rating: R
- Review: A police psychiatrist gets the chance to go back in time to prevent a murder in RETROACTIVE, a fast-paced thriller that runs out of steam before it ends. Working alone in an isolated lab in rural Texas, government scientist Brian (Frank Whaley) has discov… (more)