Race Through Time (2000)


aka The Man Who Used To Be Me

USA/Canada. 2000.


Director – Jeff Woolnough, Screenplay – James Fryman, Story – Bruce Nash, Producer – Shawn Williamson, Photography – Michael McMurray, Music – Deddy Izur, Visual Effects – Rainmaker Digital (Supervisor – Simon Lacey), Mechanical Effects – Andrew Sculthorp, Production Design – James Cordeiro. Production Company – Saban International N.V./Shavick Entertainment/Nash Entertainment


William Devane (Sam Ryan), Rob Estes (Young Sam Ryan), Laurie Holden (Amy Ryan), Woody Jeffers (Daniel ‘Mac’ MacDonald), Dion Johnstone (Dr Peter Newell), Ian Tracey (Grant Logan), Venus Terzo (Meg MacDonald), Nancy Sorel (Dr Laura Beck), Peter Wingfield (Mark Mason)


On September 20th, 2000, Seattle police officer Sam Ryan receives a call to a murder scene. He realises that the address is his own home and arrives to find that his father has been murdered. Twenty-three years later and Sam has developed an alcohol problem and been reduced to working as a security guard at a scientific research facility. There he witnesses scientists conducting experiments to send animals back in time and overhears them discussing the possibility of sending back the first human. He goes and demands at gunpoint that the scientists send him back. He is returned to the day of his father’s murder, although fails to arrive in time to stop the murder from happening. He goes to his younger self, pretending to be a private detective who was a friend of his father. Together the two of them team up to investigate the murder and in doing so uncover the activities of a group of corrupt officers within the police department.

Race Through Time is a US-Canadian co-produced tv movie. As with most Canadian productions these days, it is filled with American names and pretends to be set in America (with Vancouver standing in for Seattle). Beyond the main cast, which is filled out by American actors (William Devane, Rob Estes), the film appears to have corralled in half the regular cast of the Canadian tv series DaVinci’s Inquest (1998-2005) – Ian Tracey, Venus Terzo and Suleka Matthew.

Race Through Time starts out promisingly. Details are littered with a certain cleverness – the older William Devane meeting his younger self Rob Estes and overcoming his suspicions by telling him about himself; the two sitting in a cafe inadvertently making the same order in tandem; the cut that Rob Estes receives in a bar fight appearing on William Devane at the same time. The script even surprises one by correctly making mention of how time travel would contravene the Laws of Thermodynamics in adding energy to the sum total of the universe. The effects are cheap but the premise has an interesting promise. Enough even to overcome the bland style of Jeff Woolnough – also the director of Universal Soldier II: Brothers in Arms (1998) and Universal Soldier III: Unfinished Business (1998) and lots of Canadian-shot US tv series.

Unfortunately, that promise slips by and the latter half of Race Through Time becomes a thriller of the most routine sort about William Devane and Rob Estes uncovering a conspiracy of corrupt cops who are responsible for the father’s murder. There is nothing interesting here – indeed, the initial time travel element becomes so unimportant that the plot could easily have been rewritten with William Devane playing merely the friend he claims to be and joining in a mundane murder investigation. The same year as Race Through Time also saw Frequency (2000), a much more conceptually challenging use of the cross-time father-son relationship and one that did not fail to uphold the potential of its concept.

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