Sean Astin, eh? There seem few actors who’ve done so much with so little, and of course this is nothing to do with his family – mother, Patty Duke; apparent biological father, Desi Arnaz Jr; and stepfather, John Astin. We’ve already seen him be awful in “Cabin Fever: Patient Zero”, but it was his turn in “Lord Of The Rings” as a 4ft tall concerned expression that allowed him to be a viable B-movie leading man for a while there. And it’s a time travel movie, so get ready for some pointing out of logic holes!
Even if you’ve remained blissfully unaware of Astin’s career, the first few minutes allows those of you with busy lives the opportunity to realise “oh, this is going to suck” and walk away, as he gives us one of those faux-profound monologues so beloved of sub-par movies, full of talk of fate and destiny and all that gubbins. He’s Stuart, a super-genius scientist who’s figured out “Slipstream” technology, which allows you, provided you’re holding the clear-plastic mobile phone-looking thing, to travel back in time up to ten minutes. Stuart decides one day to go and “rob” a bank by withdrawing $2000, then travelling back in time, withdrawing the money again, repeat ad nauseam. Not a bad plan, really, but into this world come two wrinkles.
First up is the FBI team that’s tailing him. Tanner and Hallman (Ivana Milicevic and Kevin Otto) are a couple as well as partners, sort of disinterestedly tailing Stuart who, due to leaving his NSA job suddenly, has got some national security flags against him, I guess. Otto is sort of like every cop from every show you’ve ever seen, but Milicevic is brilliant, elevating all her material – even more impressive given she’s not acting in her native tongue. Secondly is an actual gang of bank robbers! Led by Winston (Vinnie Jones, who certainly improved a little as an actor after this), with a mostly English gang, they finish setting up what at least has the potential to be a decent film.
I think we’re supposed to like Stuart as he nervously tries to talk to the bank teller, but he sounds like a pervert. There’s one moment when he’s discussing her breasts (women love that from guys they don’t know, right?) and he talks about her plunging neckline…but the woman is wearing almost a polo-neck top and is showing no skin. Problem with script or wardrobe? Anyway, because he’s a simpleton and the movie needs to generate some drama and can’t think of anything clever, he drops the Slipstream device, repeatedly, and cocks up his grand plan, although the gang also help in that regard. Firstly, he’s shot and Tanner is holding him as he activates the device – she goes back too, realises something is very amiss, and things sort of snowball from there. Winston then steals the device as he escapes the bank, Hallman gets shot, the ten minute time limit passes, and there’s a crescendo of sorts on board a plane.
This feels like a movie written around the sets they could get hold of. One of the producers went “we’ve got access to a bank, a bit of closed-off road and the inside of a passenger plane, what can you do?” The way the story leaps from one to the other with little rhyme or reason gives credence to this, and the primary question you could ask is “what were they trying to achieve here?” I’m still not sure, honestly. Best guess – it was a failed pilot for a TV show, where Astin helps the FBI with crimes, and Vinnie Jones steals or duplicates the technology or something. It ticks most of the boxes, but it’d have been nice if they’d done a bit more with what they had.
And, of course, it being a time travel movie, there’s a hefty paradox or two. The main one is halfway between lazy and “there’s no way we make this movie unless we fudge the rules a little”, and goes as follows. Stuart gets shot, but is able to activate the machine to take him back. I can buy the bullet going back into the gun, but what about the big hole in his chest? Oh, that’s alright apparently, as they explain later – time travel reverses stuff you’ve had done to you. Er…okay? But the example they give, an experiment with a lab rat, doesn’t make any sense either. The only things that go back through time are you and the stuff you’re touching. I have no problem with that, but when it’s used to handwave away deadly injuries, you start picking at it a little. What about shoes? My shoes don’t touch any part of my skin at all. If shoes, why not the carpet you’re stood on? Why the contents of the bags you’re holding?
Such is the problem with the enormous majority of time travel movies. We sci-fi fans are a picky bunch, and if you try and half-ass your premise we will burn you. It’s just a little bit too irritating to be completely on board with.
I haven’t even mentioned the technical movie stuff yet. Effects are decent, with reality slowing down, stopping and going into reverse; and like I’ve said, the acting is fine too. Apart from Astin, of course, who uses his co-producer status to do whatever the hell he wants, trying to be both the comic relief and the heroic lead but mostly just coming across as a whiny man-child. The music manages to be even more irritating than him, though, never once fitting the action it’s being played on top of, with endless “montages” over slowed-down action. When the camera does its twentieth circle round a group of characters just having a normal conversation, you’ll want to reach through the screen, tear up the dolly track and beat the cinematographer round the head with it.
Finally, the gunfights. There are a lot of gunfights in this movie, and relatively few people end up getting shot. On multiple occasions, both groups are stood entirely still, emptying clips at their enemies…and no-one so much as gets a flesh wound. Now, I’ve never handled a real live gun in my life (and hope never to in the future) but I’m pretty sure if you handed me one and told me to shoot at someone who was stood stock still twenty feet away, I could do it eventually. These people, who’ve handled guns lots of times, couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a shovel.
I’m going to blame the writers and director for this one. It feels listless, like they just kept going with no particular end in sight, until they picked a spot to ignore their own rules and just reset everything, ready for the TV series (hold out hope, guys! It’s only been 11 years! They might be on the phone soon!) Credited writers Louis Morneau and Philip Badger also wrote “Retroactive” back in the late 90s, another (superior) time travel movie; and director David Van Eyssen never made a movie again, so why they didn’t ask Morneau or Badger to direct, as both of them have made better than this, is a mystery lost to the ages.
It’s sort of entertaining? But the air of pointlessness hangs heavy over it, and the central performance is really, really bad. Probably avoid unless you’re doing every time travel movie ever. Or every SyFy Channel movie, as I just discovered it’s an early one of theirs. Perhaps I ought to have been kinder.
Rating: thumbs down