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The film opens with LA-based conceptual artist Jodie Foster, looking chunkily terrific just before her adult career took off, suffering a minor breakdown on the freeway and happening on a gangland execution. Pint-sized mob boss Joe Pesci sets his killers on her but the crooks ineptly murder Foster's boyfriend (Charlie Sheen, taking a very early bath). Pesci calls in Hopper, a professional hitman who immerses himself in Foster's life and art in order to track her down only to develop an obsessive crush on the woman. When he finds her, he gives her the choice between getting rubbed out or becoming his property.
Hopper retains the knack for finding odd-looking byways of rural America, but is uncomfortable with helicopter chases and shoot-outs. The leads, despite great chunks of missing story, are both interesting--Foster sexily vulnerable and Hopper doing a wry New York drawl as the sax-playing hit man. Catchfire also offers an amazing supporting cast of the director's friends, including Dean Stockwell, Vincent Price, Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich), Tony Sirico (The Sopranos), Bob Dylan (with a chainsaw), Helena Kallianotes (Five Easy Pieces), Julia Adams (The Creature from the Black Lagoon), and John Turturro.
On the DVD: the film itself comes in a good-looking widescreen transfer, but the lack of special features let the disc down, with only feeble notes for three cast members (and no Smithee filmography). --Kim Newman