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Backtrack (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 28, 2020




Starring Adrien Brody, Sam Neill, Robin McLeavy, Bruce Spence, Jenni Baird, Chloe Bayliss, Anna Lise Phillips, George Shevtsov, Malcolm Kennard, Olga Miller, Suzie Steen, Michael Whalley, Matthew Sunderland, Barbara Gouskos, Jeanette Cronin,  Emma O’Farrell, Alexander McGuire, Milan Pulvermacher, Jesse Hyde, Greg Poppleton, Jill McKay, Kirsti Swanson and Alison Benstead.

Screenplay by Michael Petroni.

Directed by Michael Petroni.

Distributed by Saban Films.  90 minutes.  Rated R.

Adrien Brody’s career has certainly taken a lot of oddball turns in the less than a decade and a half since he won a Best Actor Oscar for The Pianist.  He followed that film up with a series of high-profile films which mostly turned out to be huge disappointments, including The Village, Hollywoodland, King Kong, The Jacket and Cadillac Records.

As his reputation as a difficult perfectionist grew around the movie business, he was soon relegated to cheesy b-movies, including some spectacularly awful ones, such as Giallo, High School, Predators and InAPPropriate Comedy.  Every once in a while he’ll get a supporting role in a legit film – like Midnight in Paris, or The Grand Budapest Hotel – but mostly his career has been stuck in the dregs.

The Australian ghost story Backtrack would appear to be another one of those cheesy no-budget b-movies – and it is, really – and yet it is also a good bit better than you might expect.  It certainly won’t save Brody’s career, but overall it’s one of the better films that he’s made in years.

Brody plays Peter Bower, an Australian (sorry, Adrien, your Aussie accent is a little dodgy here) psychologist who is lost in his own personal angst.  His young daughter has been killed in a tragic accident (in which Bower had become distracted briefly and lost track of her).  The grief has nearly ripped his marriage apart.

His practice is also affected because he’s also taken to barely even listening to his patients, not even noticing how odd that some of them are.  He has also taken to having vivid hallucinations, often revolving around a silent, hooded girl whose name is Elizabeth Valentine.  One of his best friends and mentors (Sam Neill) is certain this girl is due to his guilt about his daughter – whose name was Evie, which coincides with the mysterious girl’s initials – but when his patients start to show up in his hallucinations, Peter decides to return to him hometown to get away from everything for a while.

Back at home he is reminded of the previous tragedy in his life – as a young teen he and his best friend had witnessed the derailment of a passenger train in the woods outside of his hometown.  He also has a vague feeling there was more to the story than he recalled, but it seems to still be locked in his subconscious.

While researching the crash, he finds that the names of all of the dead in the crash coincided with the names of his patients.  Even Elizabeth Valentine was killed in the crash.

Not all of Backtrack‘s ghost story makes sense.  For example, Peter had merely been a witness to the wreck, so why were the ghosts haunting him instead of the person who was actually responsible for the train crash.  Also, to be completely honest, if you don’t know who the bad guy is the first time you see him, you’re just not trying hard enough.

However, even if it is far from perfect, Backtrack does have some seriously chilling moments.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2016 All rights reserved. Posted: February 26, 2016.

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