Previous UK releases of Catchfire
have listed the pseudonymous Allan Smithee as director, but this version proudly opens with "a Dennis Hopper film". Also known as Backtrack
, it offers a plot that advances by illogical leaps and bounds while whole scenes seem to go astray. With prominently billed actors getting almost nothing to do while major players go un-credited, a bland music score that might have been laid in from another film entirely and an ending that makes a lot of noise without actually resolving much, the film certainly has its bad points. However, it's also one of Hopper's more eccentric films, and more fun than Colors
or The Hot Spot
(which he had no trouble owning up to), partly because the director also takes a quirky lead role and his own personal interests are stirred by the modern art frills of the chase plot.
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
When artist Anne (Jodie Foster) inadvertently stumbles across a mob killing she becomes the target for hit man Milo (Dennis Hopper). But he falls for her, kidnaps her and then must protect her from his angry employers. Credited to Alan Smithee, 'Catchfire' was in fact directed by Dennis Hopper, who disowned the film after the studio took it out of his hands and released their own cut.