Director: Jeff Kanew
Screenplay: Dan Gordon (story by Paul G. Hensler and Dan Gordon)
Stars: Anthony Edwards (Jonathan Moore), Linda Fiorentino (Sasha), Nick Corri (Manolo), Alex Rocco (Al), Marla Adams (Maria), Klaus Löwitsch (Vlad), Christopher Rydell (Bob Jensen), Christie Claridge (Girl Student), Brad Cowgill (Reilly), Kari Lizer (Muffy), David Wohl (Professor)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Year of Release: 1985
Country: U.S.
Gotcha! Blu-ray

An amusing slice of mid-’80s action-comedy cheese, Gotcha! reteamed star Anthony Edwards and director Jeff Kanew, who had worked together the previous year on Revenge of the Nerds (1984). While there are some residual elements of that raunchy frat comedy in Gotcha!, especially in its opening act, it is largely content to play its semi-baked Cold War espionage antics relatively straight, at least when it serves the plot. As a result, it is a decidedly uneven movie, and not without its pleasures, even though it is difficult not to notice its various plot holes, lapses in logic, and (arguably amusing) datedness.

Edwards stars as Jonathan Moore, a goofy-endearing undergraduate at a major California university who spends his time in between classes playing “Gotcha!,” a game in which he and others stalk each other in and around campus with paintball guns. It seems a bit of a stretch that no one around them seems to notice or care that there are guys running around with what look like very real weapons, but no matter—it is an important set-up because the movie will eventually take us full circle back to the campus where he will get to play the game for real against actual Russian baddies. But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Jonathan gets involved with nefarious communist agents when he and his roommate, Manolo (Nick Corri), who is decidedly more suave and successful with the opposite sex, take a spring break trip to Europe. In a Parisian coffee shop, Jonathan meets Sasha (Linda Fiorentino), a Czech graduate student who is every bit as sophisticated and direct as Jonathan is naïve and insecure. An intense romance follows, and soon Jonathan is ditching Manolo and their plans to go to Spain to follow Sasha, who claims to work as a courier, to Berlin and then to East Berlin (this is pre-fall-of-the-wall Europe, after all).

Things go south from there, as (surprise, surprise) Sasha turns out to be something other than a graduate student/courier, Jonathan has a roll of super-secret-spy film tucked into his backpack, and a gang of off-the-rack Soviet agents led by the bespectacled Vlad (Klaus Löwitsch) is following him and then chasing him and then shooting at him. Kanew, who earlier directed the engaging prison escape drama Eddie Macon’s Run (1983) with John Schneider and Kirk Douglas, stages some decent chase scenes and generates a few moments of real suspense, especially in a tricky bit of cat-and-mouse around an ancient military fort in Berlin. Edwards is an endearing actor who sells both Jonathan’s baby-faced lack of guile and his ability to outsmart professional agents (his campus paintball game turns out to have been good training for accidental espionage). Fiorentino, who had recently starred in Vision Quest (1985) opposite Matthew Modine, makes an intriguing counterbalance, although her attraction to Jonathan is never very convincing, even when we suspect that it is all an act to accomplish some other goal.

Cinematographer King Baggot, who had previously worked with Kanew on Revenge of the Nerds and would go on to shoot Tough Guys (1986), as well, doesn’t do anything particularly flashy, and as a result the film has a relatively flat, pedestrian look. The musical score by Bill Conti (Rocky) kicks things up a few notches when needed, but the movie starts to run out of steam well before it’s over. Kanew keeps things lively with some well-placed comical interludes, including Jonathan’s love-hate relationship with his wealthy parents (Alex Rocco and Marla Adams), although repeated gags about their Mexican housekeeper somehow not being able to understand Jonathan on the phone despite being able to speak English, don’t work at all. The rest of the film, though, offers a fun enough diversion and never makes the fatal mistake of taking itself too seriously.

Gotcha! Blu-ray

Aspect Ratio1.85:1
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo
  • SubtitlesEnglish
  • Audio commentary by director Jeff Kanew
  • Audio commentary by entertainment journalist and author Bryan Reesman
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • DistributorKino Lorber
    Release DateSeptember 29, 2020

    Kino Lorber’s new Blu-release of Gotcha! marks the film’s high-definition debut in Region 1. Not having seen the film since watching it copiously on HBO as a kid back in the ’80s, I can’t compare the image and sound quality to Universal’s 2010 DVD, but I can say that the film looks very good to my eyes, certainly an accurate representation of the look of a mid-budget studio film from the Reagan era. The cinematography has a relatively flat quality without a lot of style, although it boasts strong colors throughout and solid detail despite being somewhat soft. It looks like celluloid, which is great, as there is clear presence of grain and no appearance of artificial sharpness or edge enhancement. The original stereo soundtrack has been transferred into a nice DTS-HD Master Audio presentation that maintains the original two-channel mix. The various songs on the soundtrack, such as Thereza Bazar’s opening credits track “Gotcha!” and Bronski Beat’s “Small Town Boy,” are full and sound very good, as does Bill Conti’s underappreciate musical score (which has been recently released on CD for the first time). In terms of supplements, we get not one, but two audio commentaries, one by director Jeff Kanew, who is quite entertaining as he spins production stories, and freelance entertainment journalist and author Bryan Reesman, who has previously provided commentaries for Kino Lorber releases such as Hollywoodland and Mad Love and has written a biography of Bon Jovi. Reesman is thorough and informative as he goes more in-depth into analyzing the film and and its context. Both commentaries are worth the listen for fans of the film and they compliment each other nicely. There is also a truly awful (and awful-looking) full-frame trailer that is amusing from a historical perspective.

    Copyright © 2020 James Kendrick

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    All images copyright © Kino Lorber

    Overall Rating: (2.5)

    James Kendrick

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