Sundance 2019: Relive, by David Bax
Even a cursory glance at the pedigree behind Relive would be enough to get one’s hopes up. It’s from Jacob Estes, the director of Mean Creek, and it stars Brian Tyree Henry, Mykelti Williamson and Alfred Molina in addition to its two leads, David Oyelowo and Storm Reid, who play an uncle and niece whose closeness and mutual affection both actors sell (with help from whoever decided to use a picture of Reid as a little girl on Oyelowo’s characters’ phone every time she calls). But there is no thespian on the planet who could have saved Relive from its mind-numbingly lame plot.
Jack Radcliffe (Oyelowo) is a Los Angeles detective who often must act as a surrogate father to his niece, Ashley (Reid), because his brother and her father, Garrett (Henry), is an unreliable man with a criminal past. That past becomes the present when Garret, Ashley and her mom (Shinelle Azoroh) are killed by drug dealers, leaving Jack to grieve. Until, that is, he receives a phone call from Ashley, two week in the past. Now, using their unexplained temporal connection, Jack works to save his niece after her death has already occurred.
This is remarkably similar to the plot of Gregory Hoblit’s 2000 supernatural thriller Frequency, although that movie was rated a family friendly PG-13 and this one is a clear R both for its bloodiness (including way too many shots of dead dogs) and for its language (if you want to see the girl from A Wrinkle in Time call someone a “stupid motherfucker,” here’s your chance). But these differences aren’t enough to make Relive stand apart. Instead, it feels like a cash grab Frequency ripoff that would have gone straight to DVD.
In addition to its most obvious reference point, Relive is filled to bursting with plenty of other cop movie clichés. Poor Molina is saddled with most of them, as the standard issue “You’re off the case!” style of police captain. And then, of course, even when forced to use his personal days, Jack goes right to work on his own rogue investigation, complete with a thumbtacked wall of evidence in his home.
It would be bad enough for Relive to just be dumb. Unfortunately, though, it seems to think that its audience is as well. The movie is as overexplained (complete with a calendar on which Jack helpfully marks the day his family was killed, as if he’d forget) as it is undercooked.