An artist (Foster) witnesses a mob hit and goes on the run from both killers and police. The mob sends a hitman after her, but by the time he catches up with her, he has become infatuated, and offers to spare her life - on condition that she become his personal property.
Alan Smithee is the pseudonym used by directors who demand that their name be taken off their movies: he has in the past, therefore, been credited with films really made by such luminaries as Don Siegel, Michael Ritchie, Stuart Rosenberg and, of course, David Lynch with Dune. Catchfire was, in fact, directed by its star, Dennis Hopper, and, although not a total disaster - it's better than Colors or The Hot Spot, both of which Hopper has no problem owning up to - certainly does betray the tell-tale marks of a movie that's been well kicked around.
For a start, Hopper isn't the only anonymous participant - Joe Pesci, who has a leading role, isn't credited either, while Bob Dylan pops up for an unbilled cameo as a chainsaw artist. Furthermore, the prominently-billed Vincent Price has a much smaller role than the micro-billed Charlie Sheen, and large chunks of storyline appear to be missing, especially in the latter stages of the movie.
Jodie Foster, looking chunkily terrific, is an artist who specialises in electrical installations and who happens to witness a murder committed by brutal mafia boss Pesci, who now obviously owns the patent on brutal mafia roles. Avoiding the first wave of hit-men and Fred Ward as a cop who wants her to testify, she goes underground in America, and Pesci hires cool assassin Dennis Hopper to go after her. By the time Hopper catches up, however, he has become obsessionally devoted to Foster and, rather than killing her, gives her a choice between dying or becoming his personal property.
From here on, the film falls apart on sheer implausibility, with Foster switching from contemptuously hating the crook who forces her to have sex with him to being his adoring accomplice, while a busy but pointless series of chases winds the whole thing up in the background. A mess it may well be, but Catchfire at the very least has plenty of Hopper's eccentric frills in characterisation while the performances are excellent all round.
A better film than you might expect, with great performances from an all-star cast that go some way to making up for the plot holes.