RETROACTIVE introduces us separately to three characters, whose fates are ultimately destined to converge: Brian (Frank Whaley), a scientist whose funding is about to be pulled thanks to several failed attempts at creating a time machine; Frank (James Belushi), who we first meet driving through the arid California desert with his beleaguered wife Rayanne (Shannon Whirry), along with a suitcase in the back hiding a bunch of stolen computer chips which he hopes to sell on; and Karen (Kylie Travis), a woman who's just resigned as a police psychologist, following her part in the breakdown of a siege situation which resulted in several innocent deaths.
Karen's suffering from flashbacks of the botched siege, which results in her running her car off the road. Alone in the desert, what will she do? Why, flag down the next car that passes ... which just happens to be Frank and Rayanne. Frank insists Karen hop in the car with them so he can take her to the next town, where he reckons he knows a man who owns a tow truck.
Frank and Karen enjoy a bit of light banter for a while, she apparently amused by his eccentric Hillbilly-type persona. She barely notices, at least not at first, how subdued Rayanne is - or how Frank scowls when they pass a fellow male driver who clearly knows his wife.
Following an altercation at a roadside cafe, however, Frank turns nasty and Karen starts getting uncomfortable in the back of his car. He ends up pulling over and accusing his wife of having an affair; Karen looks on helplessly, horrified, as Frank shoots Rayanne dead.
In the ensuing madness, Karen manages to flee with Frank in raging pursuit. Outrunning him, she finds her way to a remote laboratory - inhabited by Brian. He reluctantly agrees to take her in to his heavily secured testing site, and in the process inadvertently uses his machine to propel Karen back in time: suddenly she's back in Frank's car, watching confused as he chats affably to her and Rayanne. She's different towards him now - knowing what she now knows, she no longer sees him as the harmless buffoon of their first meeting.
And now, with the benefit of foresight, Karen can handle the situation differently. But, will she make things better ... or worse? Well, her actions result in a lot of breakneck action, that's for sure. All of which eventually brings Karen fleeing back to Brian's laboratory - again - and repeating the cycle - again - in a bid to fix the recent past - again ...
RETROACTIVE, from 1997, is an interesting time-travel action-thriller which manages to be both smart and entertaining. Director Louis Morneau handles pacing and fluent storytelling well, while his cast are all proficient. Belushi comes across as a wisecracking oaf in earlier scenes but plays the unrelenting psychopath with equal conviction during the film's tense latter half. Whaley is his usual reliable self in what is, in anything, a slightly underused role. Davis doesn't have great screen presence, admittedly, but handles her many action scenes well regardless. What's most noteworthy, however, is how her character's persona changes with each subsequent travel back to Frank's car - quite fascinating ...
Stunts, car chases and explosions all occur in frequent bursts, ensuring RETROACTIVE's intriguing non-linear plot isn't just engaging but also exciting at regular intervals.
As well as Belushi's one-liners, it has to be said that there is some unintentional humour in the film too. The low budget dictates that some of the FX work is extremely dated, and the computer consoles in Brian's laboratory look oversized and clunky even by late 90s standards.
All in all though, RETROACTIVE succeeds in being one of the more entertaining unsung gems of late-90s indie cinema.
88 Films' region B blu-ray presents RETROACTIVE in its original 2.35:1 ratio, boasting a clean print which really benefits from full 1080p resolution. Housed here as an amply sized MPEG4-AVC file, the film appears to be fully uncut - it's 90 minutes and 58 seconds in length, including its opening Orion intro.
The film's warm golden hues are well rendered here, while light natural grain keeps any nasty over-processing of noise reduction at bay. Details are sharp and well-defined as a consequence, flesh tones appearing natural throughout. Blacks hold up well, darker scenes are free from crushing, and everything fares well in motion.
English audio is provided in a most impressive 5.1 DTS-HD Master mix. Tim Truman's exciting electronic score comes across best in this regard, while intelligent channel separation ensures a good balance is struck between the bombastic sound effects and dialogue.
The disc opens to a static main menu page. While there is no scene selection option, the film does contain chapter stops.
The only extras relating to RETROACTIVE are a 79-second stills gallery and the film's original 2-minute theatrical trailer (which plays heavily on Belushi's comic timing).
We also get trailers for INVASION USA and TWO MOON JUNCTION.
Finally it's worth noting that the disc comes in one of those nice custom black keepcases, and that the cover is reversible (the artwork on the back is actually identical to the front cover's, albeit without any BBFC certification logos).
I really enjoyed RETROACTIVE, and the presentation on 88 Films' blu-ray is very agreeable.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by 88 Films|
|see main review|