10th Jun2019

‘Backtrace’ DVD Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Matthew Modine, Christopher McDonald, Ryan Guzman, Meadow Williams, Colin Egglesfield, Baylee Curran, Jenna Willis, Heather Johansen, Swen Temmel | Written by Mike Maples | Directed by Brian A. Miller


Directed by Brian A. Miller and written by Mike Maples, Backtrace stars one of the most famous actors of all time, Sylvester Stallone and Matthew Modine. Modine plays Macdonald, a bank robber who can’t recall when he hid millions of dollars, and a bunch of people want to know the answer to the riddle. Stallone plays Sykes, a cop who, along with Franks, an FBI agent played by Christopher McDonald, are out for information about what’s going on. The premise is simple, it doesn’t really attempt to be more than it is, and this is, without frills or excuses, an action crime movie. Hell, within the first five minutes there’s been more bullets fired than a Walking Dead finale.

Miller and Maples, from what I’ve been able to find out, haven’t done a great deal before. I feel like the film looks nice, but not always, and the writing is passable. It’s hackneyed and uneven, but not always “bad”. It suffers from perhaps an overabundance of cliche and simplicity, not taking too many turns in the road as it unfolds, something that could have kept things interesting and made for a more exciting feature. Still, there is enough here to make it worth your while. It has some slick shots and the performance from Modine, aside from some questionable dialogue at times, is fine. Stallone is okay here, though not at his best, and without as much charming or decent shtick to say, he seems to fade into the background much of the time when he’s on screen. It definitely isn’t the best work of the actors, and I felt like it was a missed opportunity to use them, especially Modine and Stallone, two big name guys who could sell a movie, if only that movie delivered. I’m not sure Backtrace did.

I didn’t hate this though, I just felt like there was a lot wrong with it. The score, way too loud and imposing in the wrong ways, gets frustrating when you’re trying to get hold of the plot. It was just absurdly overdone and didn’t really always fit with what was visually going on. The writing didn’t do much for me and the performances, while not all bad, we’re a little on the side of “phoned in”. I went in here with an open mind, having not read any other responses to the film, but I do have to admit that I was disappointed. Low budget films are something I often enjoy, but this doesn’t take advantage of its talent enough. The story is lacking depth, the writing is stifled and suffocated under its own undemanding simplicity, and it ends up being an under-par film experience because of all of this. It’s unembellished and basic concepts leave a hole in the middle of it. It’s a shame.

There’s something to like here though, if you let yourself. I thought there were moments of thrilling action and occasions where I saw a shimmer of potential under the skin. On a different day, with different elements falling into place, this could have been a better movie. Modine and Stallone, though not on the form we know they’re capable of, still carry this to being better than being a bad movie, and the directing, while not anything spectacular, is okay for the most part.

I never like to be down on a film. I try to find the best in the things I watch, and enjoy them the best I can. I did try here, and there were parts I had fun with. I’m just not sure how much fun general audiences will have here though, it can be a bumpy and demanding ride.

Backtrace is out now on DVD from Signature Entertainment.


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