Gotcha! (1985) –Director Jeff Kanew’s cold war era thriller/comedy Gotcha! was an attempt to make actor Anthony Edwards, hot off the success of his co-starring role in Revenge of the Nerds, both a bankable star and a teen idol. Yet despite a good marketing campaign, an interesting premise and a likeable star, Gotcha! has become an obscurity where most people can remember the trailer, but can’t tell you if they saw the film or not.
Anthony Edwards plays likeable, but naive, college student Jonathan Moore who, between classes and striking out with girls, plays an elaborate game of paintball called “Gotcha” where students run around campus acting as secret agents and shooting down their opponents before their opponents shoot them. On holidays from school, Jonathan and his roommate Al (Alex Rocco) go on a European vacation to France and Spain. But, while in Paris, Alex gets involved with a mysterious older woman named Sasha (Linda Fiorentino), who persuades him to skip Spain and travel to East Berlin with her on a non-descript errand. However, once in East Berlin, Jonathan gets in over his head when Sasha slips him a roll of film and then disappears, leaving Jonathan to deal with assassins and enemy agents who won’t let anything get in their way of getting that microfilm. Can Jonathan’s paint ball skills help him get the microfilm to the CIA without being a stain on the Berlin wall?
As a film Gotcha! has a fairly interesting premise, but suffers in the execution and contains some gapping plot holes (i.e. what exactly IS on that microfilm?) Furthermore, Anthony Edwards, who is in pretty much every scene, is a lot of fun to watch. How he didn’t become a major teen star is anybody’s guess. Perhaps his Nerds role was hanging over his head, but his winning performance is pretty much the best thing about Gotcha! Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for his leading lady Linda Fiorentino. The two have about as much chemistry as a sawdust sandwich, and Fiorentino’s performance is unbelievable and boring. While it is obvious that the older woman is clearly using the college student (or is she?) the couple don’t make their romance believable, and Fiorentino seems more predatory than sexy..
Gotcha! also suffers due to the fact that the plot has very little substance to it. Beyond the skeleton of the film, nothing really ever happens. Gotcha! has a pretty decent set up and an awesome ending…but that’s about it. In fact, it seems to me that that was all the writer had – a set up and an ending, and the rest of the film was just ninety minutes of filler. It’s no wonder that nobody remembers Gotcha! I only watched it a few days ago and I can’t really remember the middle already.
If anything, it’s fun to watch Gotcha! for the authentic 80’s styles and the dreadful synth soundtrack by Bill Conti. Forget John Hughes movies. Gotcha! looks exactly what I remember the 80’s looking like. I swear that I saw all the extras hanging out at the local roller rink on Saturday afternoon around 1983. When my kids want to know what the 80’s look like I’m going to skip The Breakfast Club and show them Gotcha! It may not be a great film, but its authentic 80’s. Gotcha! is a real sleeper, but it’s a likeable time waster. Good for a cheesy Sunday afternoon on a rainy day.