Retroactive” borrows the basic plot of “Groundhog Day” and turns it into a time-shifting road-movie actioner. James Belushi toplines as a redneck killer, with Kylie Travis as a police psychologist caught up in a time warp. Pic is almost wall-to-wall action, with the familiar storyline used merely as a peg on which to hang lots of the chases, shootings and explosions. It’s a routine affair that will quickly crop up in vid bins.
Perfunctory opening scene establishes Frank Whaley as Brian, a youthful scientist working improbably alone in an about-to-be shuttered laboratory deep in the Texas desert. Miffed that the Pentagon is canceling his project after he’s made 11 failed attempts to reverse time, Brian makes one more attempt, and — bingo! It works.
Meanwhile, nearby on the road, Karen (Travis) a Chicago-based police psychologist, is heading back to her Texas roots after being involved in a hostage siege that ended in several deaths. Brooding about her failure, she runs off the road and gets a ride from Frank Lloyd (Belushi) and his timid wife, Rayanne (Shannon Whirry).
By the time Frank pulls into a service station run by a buddy, Sam (M. Emmet Walsh), to buy beer, Karen has rightly deduced that Frank is very bad news, but her attempts to get away are thwarted. Suspecting his wife of having an affair with another man, Frank drives down a side road and shoots her. Karen flees, and winds up in Brian’s lab just at the right moment to be shifted backward 20 vital minutes; she finds herself back in Frank’s car.
Armed with the knowledge that Frank’s about to start killing, Karen attempts to manipulate events so they turn out differently, but with a spectacular lack of success. She manages to make it back to the lab for another try, but the third time around the violence escalates even further.
Clearly Karen isn’t much of a psychologist, and she’s even worse with a gun — the film would have been half as long if her aim were better. But “Retroactive” isn’t a film to take seriously, and the time-shifting structure adds surprisingly little to the standard gunplay and mayhem.
Belushi, sporting long sideburns and a mean expression, seems to be relishing his bad-guy role, while Travis is a fetching, if not very convincing, heroine. The rest of the cast aren’t called upon to do a great deal.
Technical credits are fine, with George Mooradian’s expansive widescreen location shooting the major asset. Though set in Texas, pic was lensed in California.