‘Backtrace’ (2018) is an action thriller film that revolves around two men — a police detective and a criminal. After robbing a bank, Donovan “Mac” MacDonald (Matthew Modine) and his friends are betrayed by men who were supposed to be their allies. Mac’s friends are killed, and Mac suffers a head injury that leaves him severely amnesiac. Seven years later, Mac is visited by a mysterious man named Lucas (Ryan Guzman), who promises Mac freedom in exchange for the location of the money he took from the bank. Meanwhile, Detective Sykes (Sylvester Stallone), the head detective in Mac’s case, often visits him in the hopes of learning who killed Mac’s friends. Just as Mac escapes from prison, his enemies return to find him and eliminate him for good. Here is everything you need to know about the ending of ‘Backtrace.’ SPOILERS AHEAD.
Backtrace Plot Synopsis
As the film begins, Mac, Ike Foster, and John Truby leave the City Central Bank with $20 million. They meet up with two men in the middle of nowhere, who insist that Mac and his friends should hand over all the money. Predictably, Mac’s group refuses and tells the other two that they will only get $5 million. A brutal shootout ensues, during which Foster and Truby are killed, and Mac suffers a head injury, which leads to him becoming a complete amnesiac. We learn that Mac didn’t even remember how to walk or speak when he was first brought into a psychiatric facility. In the next few years, with the help of extensive therapy, he regained his ability to walk, talk, and some of the other aspects that made him who he was. However, his memories continued to elude him.
After seven years, Mac finds himself sitting across a man named Lucas who promises him that he will get him out of the facility. Mac refuses to believe this until he is drugged and taken out from the place that has been his prison in all but name for the past seven years. Lucas apparently has two accomplices: Erin and Farren. Both of them had also infiltrated the facility as a nurse and security guard, respectively.
Mac thinks he has seen Lucas somewhere before but initially can’t remember where it was. His apparent rescuers tell him about a revolutionary drug, an LPT enhancer that has just finished its trial. Over 80% of the patients that have taken the drug have regained 40% of their memory. When Mac understandably asks what happened to the other 20%, Erin reveals that they died. Fortunately for Mac, although he has to endure excruciating pain and bouts of hallucination, his memories start finally coming back.
Meanwhile, Sykes and his partner, Detective Carter (Colin Egglesfield), have been associated with the case since the beginning. Over the years, Sykes regularly visited Mac at the facility to see if he had remembered anything. With Mac’s disappearance, the police launch a massive manhunt with Sykes in charge. FBI Agent Franks (Christopher McDonald) soon joins the hunt along with his new partner Karl Hicks.
Backtrace Ending: Who Are Lucas, Erin, and Farren? What Do They Want?
When Mac first meets Lucas, the latter is pretending to be a voluntary inmate at the facility. As mentioned above, Erin has become a part of the medical staff, and Farren poses as a security guard. Initially, it seems they are ordinary criminals trying to get their hands on the millions of dollars that Mac and his friends stole and will do anything they have to get the money. But as his memories begin to come back, Mac realizes that this isn’t the case.
Mac remembers that he hid the remaining $15 million in the closed cement factory he used to work at and takes Lucas, Erin, and Farren there. When Carter shows up at the location, Mac erroneously thinks that it’s the people that set him up, as they were part of law enforcement as well, and collapses on the floor due to the effects of the drug. This is when Erin assures him everything will be alright, and Mac’s memories come rushing back. Erin is his wife, and Lucas and Farren are his sons. As Erin explains, they didn’t tell him before because of what happened during the drug trial. The people who didn’t regain their memories thought what they remembered was fake and planted. They didn’t believe in them. Erin, who seems to have been a medical researcher and likely the developer of the drug, knew that this was the only way the process would work.
Who Set Mac Up? Why?
Agent Franks and his associates in the FBI were the ones that set Mac up. Mac, Foster, and Truby were local people. All of them used to work for the cement factory mentioned above. Its owners took out a $30 million line of credit with Central City Bank, using the employee pension fund as collateral. They eventually filed for bankruptcy, but before that, they ensured they would get annual bonuses of more than $24 million. This ruined the workers like Mac and his friends. Franks knew about it as the FBI was investigating Central City Bank for fraud at the time. He and his associates worked together with Mac and his friends on the heist, providing them with intel from within law enforcement.
However, Franks never intended to let Mac and his friends have their share of the money. He didn’t even want to let them live. Although Mac, Foster, and Truby figured out the rogue FBI agents’ plans, they were no match for people who have spent their lives in law enforcement. As a result, Foster and Truby were gunned down during the shootout. The only reason Mac survived the encounter was that the agents had to leave. They most likely thought he would die soon. But they didn’t come for him even after learning he was alive. This was likely because they also learned about his amnesia and thought it would draw unnecessary attention if they went after him inside a secured facility.
That changes when Mac escapes. He once more becomes a target to be hunted down and interrogated about the location of the rest of the money. During the confrontation at the cement factory, the FBI agents gun down Carter and Farren. Franks and his men come quite close to killing Mac, Lucas, and Erin. However, Sykes arrives in time and takes out Franks and the others, saving the remaining MacDonald family.
Why Does Detective Sykes Let Mac and His Family Go?
As Sykes makes his way to the cement factory, he hears the entirety of the conversation between Mac and Franks through Carter’s phone. Sykes and Carter were talking when the latter was shot, but the call didn’t cut off. Sykes learned exactly what happened seven years ago. After taking out Franks and the rest of the rogue agents, Sykes sees Mac with his family and decides to let them go. He believes that Mac has paid for his crime with the seven years he spent at the facility. Now, he and his family deserve some happiness. This is also why Sykes lets Mac keep the money and promises him that he will take care of Farren’s body and any future law enforcement inquiries on the subject.
Read More: Is Backtrace Based on a True Story?