The biggest mystery surrounding supernatural drama Backtrack is just what drew the accomplished, chameleon-like Adrien Brody to its leading role. While the actor’s natural intensity is never quite dulled by the pat, predictable story, his character’s insipid search for understanding and meaning in a narrative devoid of either is an emotional and dramatic slog.
As psychotherapist Peter Bower, whose grief over the death of his young daughter opens the door to a long-held secret concerning his troubled patients, Brody is given little to do other than maintain an air of melancholy, punctuated with the occasional shocked reaction to events that are so blatantly signposted they are surprising to no-one.
That’s because writer-director Michael Petroni – who previously penned the more successful screenplays for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Book Thief – follows the horror handbook to the last letter, relying largely on gloomy visuals, atmospheric music, heavy-handed dialogue and jump cuts to ramp up the scares. Yet it’s all an empty exercise given that the film’s story is so overwhelmingly bland and derivative. As Peter slowly begins to confront his personal demons, Petroni bangs this metaphorical drum with a deafening lack of subtlety, both visually and thematically – and pushes the actions of his characters well past the point of credible behaviour.
Worse still, is that it all culminates in a blunt-edged, final reel revelation in which, yet again, sexual violence is used as nothing more than a motivational tool for a male protagonist. It is a nasty, jolting end to a story that is – ironically, considering the subject matter – spiritless; so it’s something of a comfort that the film derails long before it lumbers to its tasteless denouement.
UK release January 29, 2016
This review was originally published by The List