The year is 1989, and back around twenty years ago, at the height of the disruption and social unrest in the United States there was one case that embarrassed the F.B.I. deeply when an incident with the then-Vice President proved they did not have their eye on the ball. The person responsible was hippy activist Huey Walker (PDennis Hopper) who has been on the run, a fugitive from justice, ever since - but now he has been caught, and must be transported to jail. Young agent John Buckner (Kiefer Sutherland) has been assigned to bring him in by his boss (Paul Dooley), and what seems like a simple enough job is quickly complicated by Walker's trickster personality...
Flashback was interesting in that it predicted the following decade, the nineteen-nineties, would be obsessed with the sixties in a way that a patch of the eighties was preoccupied with the fifties, but as it turned out, in America anyway, it was the seventies that appealed more; in Britain, the music scene harked back to the sixties, but not in the same way this film was trying to set a precedent for. This left it looking like an anomaly, and even when it was released after sitting on the shelf for about a year, it never really caught on either with the Baby Boomers or their kids who were then coming of age and seeking to delve into the recent-ish past to adapt and inspire their entertainment from.
It didn't help that for all its posturing that the hippies were more political and socially savvy than Generation X, it failed to have the courage of its convictions when it came down to it, with a lead character who admits at one point that he never had that courage either, and it was pure fluke he should become emblematic of the counterculture when at the time he was simply scared of getting drafted into the Vietnam War. This would have been far more effective with a genuine rebel who had never sold out, but when it boils down to a guy embracing capitalism so he could sell his book, it was somewhat disappointing. Fair enough, a grandstanding pontificator might have been a bit much.
But it would at least have presented more engagement with its subject when the conclusion was the younger generation would pick up where he left off and do it better, using him and his contemporaries as inspiration, though the impression was less they were rabble rousers utterly justified in the activism, and more that they were a bunch of obstinate stoners who just liked to cause problems with the powers that be for the Hell of it. Hopper famously turned from the director and star of the iconic hippy flick Easy Rider into a far more conservative figure, part of the art dealing and Hollywood establishment once he had calmed down and stopped trying to live up to a rebellious image his old pal James Dean inspired, which was presumably why he agreed to headline this watered-down version of his old self.
Sutherland, meanwhile, had emerged in the me-first eighties, and though he was the son of a more radical star in Donald Sutherland, never conveyed that spirit in his public life as his father had, therefore not a bad fit for his humourless Agency representative (you could see why he was cast in long-running, ultra-conservative action thriller series 24, for instance, this persona suited his style). However, they even messed up his character with unnecessary revelations and a defection to prove himself more of a radical than Walker had been, you could see the theme of the younger citizens picking up the baton here once again, but dramatically it was weak. Just as well this was a comedy then, and an action/thriller/comedy at that, except it wasn't very funny either, and the action was sparse, when it arrived pretty basic too. Flashback was mildly diverting, but the feeling of selling out never left it; you could observe selling out was part of getting older, but this was never convinced there was much to sell out in the first place. Music by Barry Goldberg.