Ever since the mythic ’60s ended, countercultural idealists have been grappling with the loss of what they believed would be their eternal youth. Considering how many serious books and movies have addressed the aging of the Woodstock generation, it’s surprising to find Flashback, a seemingly insubstantial film that has something important to say on the subject.
In Flashback, FBI agent John Buckner (Kiefer Sutherland), an uptight company man at 26, is assigned to transport the irrepressible, Abbie Hoffman-like Huey Walker (Dennis Hopper) from San Francisco to Spokane, Wash., where the former underground legend is wanted for a 1969 prank involving Spiro Agnew. In a battle of wills, the wily old radical easily outwits his young jailer and trades identities with him.
So far, so predictable. But screenwriter David Loughery cleverly builds this simple role reversal into an affecting vehicle for exploring identity and growth. Against all odds, the movie manages to avoid easy caricatures. For example, when Carol Kane appears as an aging hippie holdover, she manages to be more heartwarming than comical. And the references to Easy Rider, which Hopper directed and starred in, are sparing. (If only the same restraint had been used in selecting songs for the overbearing Easy Rider-revisited soundtrack.) Unlike many such voyages through the past, this is one ’60s trip that’s worth repeating. B+