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|Index||40 reviews in total|
Dennis Hopper's go-for-broke-on-a-slim-budget black comedy about a hit-man falling for his target, a strange but alluring young woman who makes pop art out of neon signs. I enjoyed bits of "Backtrack" (see that, not the butchered European print entitled "Catchfire") such as the gorgeous theater in New Mexico where Jodie Foster hides out or the funny scene where she's pacing around in the bathroom, trying to decide how far she should go with her pervy kidnapper. Unfortunately, the knockabout editing leaves the film feeling somewhat disjointed and the actors are occasionally encouraged to just wing it, but without funny results. I didn't mind the ending--I was hoping for an upbeat one--but these characters don't turn out to be particularly smart people. They're dizzy, lustful little cyphers, and they might've been more engaging if they'd been written with brains.
If that's what you want, you want this movie-- she bares it not once but twice. Or if Bob Dylan wielding a chainsaw is your bag... The script is clichéd and inept, the directing choppy, the excellent cast largely wasted. At least they look like they had fun making it. If it was better written/directed, the basic premise of the abductee falling for the abductor might be more believable. Jodie spends most of her time looking worried, until she suddenly mutates into passionate lover/co-conspirator. Joe Pesci managed to have his name completely scrubbed from the film and the packaging, although his part is not minor. Blink and you'll miss Catherine Keener, apparently in her first credited role. Somebody should put the soundtrack's sax player out of our misery.
For about a decade, I swear I saw a number of films with the same
trait: trying to make a hardened cold-blooded hit man into a
sympathetic softie at heart. Oh, filmmakers just love to make evil look
Who better to play a twisted wacko than Dennis Hopper? Here, Hopper has the hots for Jodie Foster. To quickly summarize, the film is pretty interesting but with a bad message, as just mentioned. What's really interesting is the cast. Check this out: Hopper, Foster, Joe Pecsi, Fred Ward, Dean Stockwell, Vincent Price, John Turturro and Charlie Sheen. Obviously, this cast is what primarily makes the film fun for a viewing or two. The more you see it, and analyze it, the dumber it gets so don't see this more than twice....maybe once is more than enough. The dialog is pretty dumb in spots.
This is also unique because they can't seem to figure out how long this film runs. When I first saw it on VHS, the box said it was 102 minutes but it was really between 112-115 minutes. When the DVD came out, it also said "102" but only ran 99 minutes. They must have edited out quite a bit of footage from the tape! It was probably a smart move as the second half of the movie dragged too much. However, I've heard of a case like this with tapes and DVDs.
Despite the shameless overacting by almost the entire cast, and, despite the "chop shop" editing of the DVD, and, despite the two famous actors (Charlie Sheen, Joe Pesci) who yanked their names from the credits, and, despite the randomness and somewhat unbelievability of the script, and, despite the movie's tendency to vacillate wildly between genuine tension, dark humor, titillating nudity, and cartoonish situations, in spite of all these potential faults, "Backtrack" is very watchable. It has fantastic on location photography, that only adds to the enjoyment of a somewhat flawed, nevertheless intriguing, and ultimately entertaining movie. - MERK
Despite a marvelous cast and some pretty good ideas, pedestrian writing keeps this movie from being as good as its cast would have make one think it would be. Although Catchfire, or Backtrack as it is known in the U.S., clearly tries to be a black comedy it does not have quite enough humor in it to qualify. That said, though, this is a consistently interesting film that is filled with excellent performances. 7 out of 10.
As I said, Hopper plus Foster = great chemistry. These two make a great
movie out of a plot that is absolutelu unbelievable. What hit man falls in
love with his hit sight unseen? What hit falls in love with her hit man
after a one night stand? What hit man has a helicopter set aside for just
the right escape? What mafia boss has ten or more hit men who can't hit a
one man target? You see, this is a plot that no one could believe in. But,
no one cares, because you are so involved in the evolution of the
relationship between the Hopper & Foster characters that you overlook or
forgive everything else. These two are so powerful that they make Fred Ward
look like a character actor.
This is a violent movie where the violence never seems to override the comedy/relationship/slice of life issues that the film portrays. Plus, you get to see Jodie Foster naked!?! Who would have thunk it? By the way, she has a very nice body.
I don't know how this movie has not become a cult favorite, but give it time. It is a gem!
PS Don't overlook a dynamite performance by Joe Pesci, who is not listed in the cast. Go figure.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Word on the (imdb) street is that director Dennis Hopper was so p*ssed
with studio interference that he asked for his name to be removed from
the credits. Apparently he submitted and initial cut that ran over
three hours and was then distraught when it was deemed too long and
culled to a lean 90 minutes.
As a viewer I can only pass judgment based upon what I see, and I can sympathise with both parties. For one I cannot fathom sitting through another 90 minutes of this eye-vomit, but on the other hand it seems that an absolutely insane editing decision renders the viewing experience incomprehensible.
The upshot of that is as always no-one wins.
Consider this: Anne (Jodie Foster) is an avant-garde artiste who witnesses a murder within approximately 27 seconds of entering a 'bad neighbourhood'.
This moment of incredibly inopportune timing puts both mob and the FBI on her trail after she refuses to testify and shoots through to pursue a lifetime on the run in disguise.
Dennis Hopper plays Milo, the elite hit-man hired by the mob to eliminate Anne and put an end to this nonsense, only Milo is apparently entranced by Anne's artwork and almost instantly changes from a cold blooded hit-man into a creepy stalker-rapist.
Now. While all this is indeed mostly reprehensible it is not yet implausible. But wait there's more (I would ordinarily warn of Spoilers to a 20 year old film here, but they are blabbed all over the back of the DVD cover so I don't feel so bad.) After Milo kidnaps Anne, threatens her life, forces her to don sexy (a word that should never appear in the same sentence as Jodie Foster) lingerie and rapes her her words we cut abruptly to a scene apparently only a short while later where they are both very much in genuine love.
Wait. What the f*ck? Anyway the rest of this god-awful mess exists if you care to find it. I wouldn't suggest it. Repeatedly punch yourself in the groin instead, it's more fun and burns more calories. Unfortunately for me I didn't take that option and was still sitting glassy eyed when the credits rolled The only other thing worth mentioning is that this stain of a film actually boasts a top-notch cast of actors punching well below their weight; Fred Ward, Joe Pesci, John Turturro, Dean Stockwell, Catherine Keener and Charlie Sheen all wasted parts of their lives appearing in it.
As for the 'headliners' Jodie Foster was always miscast in a role that demanded 'sexy', and Dennis Hopper over-acts to sh*t in this film. If that isn't enough he adopts a ridiculous and annoying accent. Not being an American I have no idea if the accent is authentic or not and frankly I don't care, all I will say is that if it is legit perhaps it is advisable to simply not have characters from that particular region in film from this point on.
Like this film there are things that don't need to exist.
Final Rating 3.5 / 10. If I was Dennis Hopper and had to live with the realisation that I was even partially responsible for Back-Track / Catch-Fire / Cinematic-Turd I wouldn't seek to remove the name Dennis Hopper from the film, I would seek to remove myself from Dennis Hopper.
This film mixes some features rarely found together: mob violence, guns,
murder, chases and crashes, a woman in jeopardy... AND some understated
humor, would-ya-believe romance and kindness to animals, and a happy ending
Dennis Hopper took his name off the cut version, which apparently omits, among others, parts of scenes featuring Jodie Foster's nudity. This is the version I saw, and even thus cut I give the film a 7.
The plot is straightforward: a hitman (Dennis Hopper) hired to kill a woman (Jodie Foster) who witnessed a mob murder gives her the option of staying alive and being "his." Then, since he defaulted on his assignment, they must flee mob reprisal.
My relatively high rating is based on Hopper's direction and on the acting, principally of the two main stars. (Joe Pesci and Dean Stockwell contribute wryly amusing mafioso figures.)
This is certainly not a comedy or romance film, nor is it intended to be. Nor is it "warm human drama." It's not at all slapstick or maudlin.
What impressed me most were Hopper's characterization and the scenes of their developing relationship. Hopper's Milo is a professional killer, a man of little polish (contrasting the wheelchair-ridden Vincent Price as the mob boss).
But a man's a man, for all that. Especially good is a scene early in their relationship, in which the hitman expresses his awed smittenness for his then-captive. His plain-spoken awkwardness shows, low-key, the loneliness and vulnerability of a man who has not experienced much love in his life.
And if you think a woman in such a situation could never respond favorably (albeit gradually), you don't know much about women -- and I don't mean the Stockholm Syndrome(?), that phenomenon of hostages warming up to their captors. The dynamics of their relationship -- the gradual, subtle shifting of their feelings and reactions -- are masterfully but quietly, almost incidentally, portrayed by Foster and especially Hopper. This film is certainly in the European style.
Still, you action fans shouldn't stay away; though not much gore, there is a sufficiency of sinister dread, gratuitous violence, and crashings and burnings.
Splendid, offbeat film that blurs the line between the refined arty types
(Foster's Anne Benton), and lowlifes (Hopper, Pesci). Exceptional
cinematography and editing, plus a neat script, make this film appear to be
a template for Tarantino, as we sort of define the term "opposites attract"
with this film!
Hopper, Pesci, Price, and Turturro all give terrific performances, but Foster steals the flick in an extremely uncharacteristic performance. Made around the time of The Accused, this is Foster at her unrestrained, corset-less best. This is Foster as truly one of the hottest, sexiest women in Hollywood. She seriously could have had a career as a sex kitten (Hard to believe I know, but watch Backtrack, whoo!), but after The Silence of the Lambs, she never really returned to this turf. It's sad, because her wonderfully loopy, sexy performance, is glorious... one of her best.
Backtrack, aka Catchfire, is one of those classic "Alan Smithee" cases,
but unlike say David Lynch's Dune it's hard to feel too sorry for the
filmmaker in the case of producers fiddling with the "original" vision.
Dennis Hopper's original cut of the film was three hours, which is more
akin to a move out of Erich von Stroheim; maybe it is genius in its
full form, but perhaps Hopper would have been better just taking what
is a half-bitter, half-sweet neo-noir with pitch black comedy and crazy
romance as a shorter feature. Is the question more that a 3 hour cut
may *still* be a mess rather than it's a lost masterpiece? (Originally
Easy Rider had a fate like this with Hopper's original cut something
like 4 hours, then trimmed to 95 minutes it was great). A Magnificent
Ambersons butchering it also is definitely not. No tears are shed over
Matter of fact there is a 2 hour director's cut, which somewhat sadly is hard to track down. So, taking into account this 98 minute "studio" cut (studio in a loose term since Vestron is no longer even around), it's bound to have flaws. To give Hopper his credit a lot of this is due to a choppy rhythm; sometimes there's a spectacular cut (i.e. when he jumps from a rooftop it cuts right away to him opening a drawer in a room), and sometimes it really does feel like a little extra detail or moment is excised in favor of keeping the plot going.
It's not a bad plot either, if somewhat typical in the film noir tradition: a woman has one of those freak chance of occurrences on a road as her tires go flat on a highway, and walking along the side of the road she sees in a wasteland a mob hit. The mobsters see her, she escapes in time, goes to the cops, and then when the mob comes by and kills her boyfriend she goes on the run - not taking into account a strange, soulful hit-man is on her trail, more as a stalker than a killer, leading to a very challenging moment halfway where the gears shift in tone.
The first half is fairly fun as a chase movie and has some surprises, mostly in cameos that had me smile (Vincent Price) and shaking my head and laughing like I was having a hallucination (Bob Dylan), with Hopper creating what looks to be another in a line of classic psychos (he has the skill of a puzzle-solver following Foster's trail, and sometimes plays the saxophone to relax). The mood also reflects wonderfully a sense of the noir with Foster changing her look (blonde wig and black jacket) with the conventional jazz music put behind her. When he finally tracks her down, however, there's a possibly great scene: Hopper, with a tie around her neck and handcuffs on her hands, gives Foster a choice, either die right now or be "mine" so that she would be under his total control. There's such tense acting here by the leads that it promises that this will lead to an electrifying second half.
This is not the case. Instead we get a fairly quickly unfolding of a romance, oddly enough, as Hopper's quasi-captive finally falls for her sort of sensitive and awkward hit-man, and there's even a weirdly "cute" scene where Hopper fulfills a secret that she has which is to have lots of pink Hostess cakes! There's a sort of absurdity here that maybe echoes Bunuel; it's kind of sadistically dangerous, and at the same time starts to make less sense even as it ratchets up some memorable, baroque images (the burning figure at night right before Hopper goes into Foster's room to take her sort of hostage). The acting isn't bad either, but again the sense of rhythm is off, and it's hard to look past that as the film is what it is and has to be seen like that.
As a curiosity it's surely a must-see - it's got a who's who of stars and character actors, from Charlie Sheen to Price to Joe Pesci to Catherine Keener to Jon Tuturro to Paulie from the Sopranos - though it's hard to exactly call it a very "good" movie. Too much of it ticks and tocks with a near originality to ignore it, but it's too flawed to see as some work of tortured genius either.
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