Backtrack

Dennis Hopper followed Colors with this lost movie, which got held up for years (its original distributor folded) until it won a theatrical release in Europe and then a few playdates on American cable. Now that it’s available on video in Hopper’s preferred cut, it has a shot at the following it deserves; this is easily Hopper’s smoothest directorial outing to date. Jodie Foster stars as a conceptual artist who witnesses a mob rubout. She goes to the police, who offer her the FBI’s Witness Protection Program. Not wanting to give up her life, Foster flees cross-country, with both the cops and the mob on her tail. Hopper plays the hit man who’s sent after her, and he grows romantically obsessed with her — a potentially icky twist that pays off, because Foster and Hopper turn out to have fantastic chemistry.

This thriller that morphs into a Jonathan Demme-like gentle comedy would be fine with just the two leads, but Hopper also corralled a supporting cast to die for: Joe Pesci, John Turturro, Dean Stockwell, Fred Ward, Vincent Price, and Bob Dylan as a chainsaw artist. If you cherish the idea of Pesci, Turturro (wearing a cowboy hat), Stockwell, and Hopper in the same room, you won’t be able to resist Backtrack. This, by the way, was clearly an inspiration for Neil LaBute’s Nurse Betty.

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