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Film / Retroactive

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Retroactive is a 1997 sci-fi action film.

Karen is a Chicago cop who travels back to her native Texas after a hostage situation gone wrong tarnishes her reputation. Her car breaks down when she's picked up Frank (James Belushi) and his wife Rayanne. When Frank finds out his wife's infidelity, he murders her in front of Karen before chasing her down. She ends up seeking refuge in a government science lab manned by a guy named Brain (Frank Whaley), but is transported back through time after she accidentally steps into Brian's experimental Time Machine, winding up back in Frank's car 20 minutes earlier. She tries to stop Frank from killing his wife again, only to end up making things worse, necessitating further loops.


This film provides examples of:

  • Ax-Crazy: Frank is unhinged and homicidal, and doesn't need much prompting to go on a destructive rampage. Discussed when Brain mentions that he thought Frank was obnoxious, but didn't expect him to be an insane psychopath.
  • Domestic Abuse: Frank is a violent thug with a Hair-Trigger Temper who emotionally and physically abuses his wife Rayanne. When he finds out that she cheated on him, he murders her.
  • Evil Is Hammy: The murderous Frank, as played by Jim Belushi, is constantly cracking bad jokes and chewing up the scenery around him.
  • Flipping the Bird: When Frank initially drives past Karen's broken vehicle, she gives him the clenched-fist salute. This starts the chain of events in the movie, as he would likely have just ignored her otherwise.
  • For Want of a Nail: Karen keeps having to travel back through the time machine to stop Frank from murdering his wife, because each loop keeps getting worse. She goes back 20 minutes and ends up in the same place each time in Frank's car after he picked her up, but her different attempts to stop him (warning the Sheriff, stealing Frank's gun, etc.) only result in Frank going on an even bigger killing spree. She eventually decides to go back to before she got in Frank's car, which results in Frank turning on his partner and getting shot by Rayanne.
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  • Mental Time Travel: The time machine reverses time for a set period up to an hour while allowing one or more people to keep their memories. It also preserves the video on a VHS tape at one point.
  • Mexican Standoff: In one of the temporal loops, Karen takes Frank's accomplice hostage at the gas station, only for the Sheriff to walk in at that moment. This results in an armed standoff between herself, the Sheriff, and Frank, which ends with Frank killing the Sheriff.
  • Motor Mouth: There's hardly a minute where the villain Frank (Jim Belushi) isn't running his mouth off.
  • One-Word Title
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The homicidal Frank makes several derogatory remarks about foreigners, Mexicans in particular.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: The heroine finds herself timelooped due to close proximity to an underground time travel experiment. She is witness to a murder, and tries to use the shortish (20-minute?) loop to alter the outcome. Results vary.
  • Show Some Leg: In one temporal loop Karen tries to distract Frank by acting rather comely and suggesting a threesome with his wife so she can reach for his gun.
  • Time Machine: A scientist named Brian builds a time machine that allows one or more people to travel back to where they physically were at that point in time.


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