Video exhumes a buried treasure: Director Dennis Hopper’s smart, subtle, and original 1989 film, made for a company that went bust, is an ”outlaw” picture on the order of Thelma & Louise. Written by Rachel Kronstadt Mann and Ann Louise Bardach, it bristles with brilliant ideas. Foster plays a Jenny Holzer-type artist working with giant LED readouts who witnesses a mob execution, and Hopper a dese-dem-and-dose hit man who, hot on her tail, falls for her.

Backtrack constantly confounds expectations. It’s a canny portrait of a culture that’s drunk on images and information yet remains a wasteland of values. Foster’s flight, in disguise, from both the mob and the police actually provides her with a new spiritual identity. And in the vast, stunning reaches of the Southwestern landscape, she and Hopper achieve a new freedom together. With a cast that includes Joe Pesci, Vincent Price, Bob Dylan, Dean Stockwell, John Turturro, and Helena Kallianotes, the movie offers the unexpected, heady high of a newfound archaeological discovery. A-

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