Backtrace: Why did Sylvester Stallone even bother?

Film review: Sly should have stayed away from this boring, chaotic mess

Sylvester Stallone: Whatever he was paid, it wasn’t worth it

Film Title: Backtrace

Director: Brian A Miller

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Matthew Modine, Ryan Guzman, Meadow Williams, Christopher McDonald

Genre: Crime

Running Time: 87 min

Fri, Mar 5, 2021, 05:00


Here’s a question that has much distracted us during Lockdown III. Why do so many, ahem, senior stars feel the need to haul their expensive rear-ends around so many shoddy, gimcrack productions?

This year we have already seen J Travolta embarrass himself in the atrocious Eye for an Eye, and N Cage fare little better in the trashy Willy’s Wonderland. Now S Stallone, the granddaddy of them all, arrives in a film so supernaturally boring that light bends when passing its dense outer mantle. Time moves so slowly one begins to fear it may turn backwards and return us to the far distant opening credits. Can these guys really need the money?

The numbingly chaotic plot hangs around a villain (Matthew Modine, also slumming) who develops amnesia after a bank raid and forgets where all the money, jewels, gold bullion or weapons-grade Macguffins are buried. As he is being carted off to the nick, Detective Stallone arrives to mop up the blood.

Hang on? By my calculation, the great man was 72 when he shot the picture. Maybe this is his “last day on the job”. Maybe he needs just one more success before retiring to his boat. The words “seven years later” then appear on the screen. And he’s still there. They clearly don’t hold much with retirement in Savannah, Georgia.

The good news for those hoping Stallone will remain upright to the end is that, despite being at the top of the credits, he doesn’t have much to do in Brian A Miller’s useless makeweight. Top-flight “That Guy” Christopher McDonald – honestly, you’ll know him if you’re odd enough to rent the flick – takes most of the investigating duties. Stallone turns up every 15 minutes to wear a leather jacket while suggesting the 1980s action-movie version of Mount Rushmore (or one quarter of that imaginary monument).

Savannah doesn’t overtire itself either. A few second unit shots of the docks aside, the film does little to dispel impressions it could as easily have been shot on a ghost estate in Mullingar. Modine tears his hair as villains administer a miracle drug. Detective McDonald scowls at passing clouds. Stallone waits stonily for the arrival of mountainous South Dakotan versions of Schwarzenegger, Van Damme and Willis.

Whatever he was paid, it wasn’t worth it. 

On Amazon Prime from March 5th