Hopper creates another odd character Jodie Foster co-stars in edgy 'Backtrack'

December 14, 1991|By Steve McKerrow

Dennis Hopper adds to his credits for fascinating, loopy characters, but Jodie Foster is not likely to be up for any more Best Actress awards from their co-starring roles in "Backtrack," an edgy, erotic film premiering on the Showtime network tonight.

Although it saw brief theatrical release in Europe, the film has been re-edited by director Hopper for its domestic premiere. But evidence of much editing is the last thing to be found in "Backtrack." (It premieres at 8 o'clock, with future screenings Thursday and Dec. 23.)

The movie plays like a film school senior project, where the maker gathers a bunch of friends to do parts, lifts liberally from other films and tries to throw in all the flashy cinema techniques he can. Indeed, it is a home movie in the sense that much of it was shot at and around Mr. Hopper's own cabin retreat in New Mexico.

Murky of plot and wildly self-indulgent, the film is also weirdly intriguing and actually quite funny. You wonder if Mr. Hopper intends it as an inside joke.

In brief, a mostly expressionless Ms. Foster plays a conceptual artist -- her medium is computerized message boards -- who witnesses a mob slaying. She is soon fingered for a "hit" by the killer (Joe Pesci, oddly uncredited), who hires perfectionist Milo (Mr. Hopper) to do the job.

She flees and tries to assume a new identity, first in Seattle and then Taos, N.M., while Mr. Hopper and a police detective (Fred Ward) track her down. It is not giving too much away to say that Mr. Hopper becomes so invested in her life that he is in love -- although we are not talking about your usual romantic notion of love.

"Backtrack" actually is not graphically sexual, save for a shower nude scene by Ms. Foster. But boy, is it sensual. The no-longer tomboyish Ms. Foster is frequently lightly clad, and a thin saxophone music score keeps the erotic tension humming.

Among the oddities in the film are several appearances by familiar figures.

Charlie Sheen is Ms. Foster's boyfriend early on, and apparently is slain by killers. (This is not made clear until, oh, another hour into the film.)

Vincent Price is a mob patriarch, Bob Dylan has about 30 seconds as an artist, and Dean Stockwell (from "Quantum Leap") is a mob adviser, seemingly doing the very same role he did in "Married to the Mob."

Indeed, "Married to the Mob," "GoodFellas," "The Untouchables," "The Godfather" and any number of mob-motif movies are evoked here, along with the Hopper/David Lynch "Blue Velvet" and Lynch's TV show, "Twin Peaks."

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