In "Flashback" (citywide), the casting of Dennis Hopper as an Abbie Hoffmann-like radical prankster is weirdly dislocating. Still primarily identified with "Easy Rider," Hopper is the shaggy archetype of '60s hippie anomie.
The movies in which he has subsequently appeared, such as "Apocalypse Now," "River's Edge" and "Blue Velvet," have crystallized the nightmarish essence of that archetype. His Frank in "Blue Velvet," the psychosexual terrorist getting high on the inhalation of some unmentionable gas, is like a worst-possible-case hippie. He is the confirmation of every blue-nose paranoid fantasy about what the '60s could do to you if you yielded to its liberations.
In "Flashback," however, which opens in contemporary San Francisco, Hopper's Huey Walker isn't supposed to be a burnt-out case. Despite his scraggly derelict's appearance and screw-loose antics, he is wised-up and politically right on. He is, God help us, the conscience of the '60s. And that's where the dislocation comes in. Hopper represents the fringes of hippiedom for us, yet his character here is also being promoted as a robust politico--an Abbie Hoffman in Rip Van Winkle drag.
Huey secured his radical rep 20 years ago by unhooking Spiro Agnew's train compartment from the rest of the train during a vice presidential campaign stop. Arrested on the spot by the FBI, he gave them the slip. Rearrested after two decades in hiding, the G-men are in no mood to be humiliated again. A straight-arrow rookie agent, Kiefer Sutherland's John Buckner, is assigned to transport the handcuffed Huey from San Francisco to Spokane. The movie is about how they touch off emotions in each other that lead to a symbolic rapprochement. The '60s shakes hands with the '80s. Or is it the '90s? Anyway, no hard feelings.