The Hot Spot

Safe is never sex. It’s dangerous.

Fantasy Romance Drama
130 min     6.32     1990     USA


A man enters a small town which unwittingly gets obscured as girls, money, bank heists, police, killers and even a loner will strive forward in this crime-thriller.


John Chard wrote:
If you fall out of bed again the cockroaches are gonna start talking. The Hot Spot is directed by Dennis Hopper and adapted to screenplay from the Charles Williams novel, "Hell Hath No Fury", by Nona Tyson and Charles Williams. It stars Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen, Jennifer Connelly, Charles Martin Smith and William Sadler. Music is by Jack Nitzsche and cinematography by Ueli Steiger. Dennis Hopper loves film noir, he has been in some bona fide classic neo-noirs, whilst also turning his hand to directing that style of film making. The Hot Spot may not be a total success as such, but it is a superb effort that lovers of all things noir can feast upon. Story pitches Johnson as drifter Harry Madox, who lands in a Southern state town, bluffs his way into a car salesman job, plots a robbery, and then finds that two local ladies - of very different qualities - are about to change his life forever... I found my level and I'm living it. Hopper turns in a honest and faithful tribute to the first wave of film noir, but armed with the fact this was his era of film making relaxations, he gets to sex things up. Blending noir with erotic thriller conventions allows Hopper to pile on plenty of sizzle, which comes in the form of Madsen, who as Dolly Harshaw gives neo-noir one of its finest femme fatales. Overtly sexual and on the surface a ditz, an easy lay, it's only when this part of noirville shows its hand - in true old school fashion - does the character become memorable still further. On the flip side is Connelly's more straight laced Gloria Harper, who Madox coverts, yet there's baggage there as well (is she virginal?), baggage which adds more potency and trickery to this smouldering hot spot hot-pot. The girls are great, but so is Johnson, he broods and has a raw masculinity most fitting for this type of role. It's a shame he didn't do more neo-noir because he has the tools for the trade. Hopper brings sweat, sweaty close ups and noirville fans, while the photography and musical accompaniments are superbly compliant to the required atmosphere. The editing is a let down, so many scenes needed to have the linger factor, but it's not enough to kill this fine slice of noir pie. A sexy guy in over his head, devious machinations from both sexes, robbery, arson, deaths, ignorance and stupidity, The Hot Spot is far from being boring! The deliberate slow burn pacing has alienated the casual "crime/erotic thriller" film fan, but for those who love and know their noir, the fireplace cinders approach is a joy because the pay off delivers all that we hoped. 8/10
Wuchak wrote:
**_An amoral drifter stuck between a naïve teen and an adulteress in Texas_** An unprincipled man in his mid-30s (Don Johnson) rolls into a small town in the greater Austin area wherein he uses his mojo to land a job as a used car salesman. The sultry wife of the owner (Virginia Madsen) shows interest while he has his eyes on a winsome lass at the dealership (Jennifer Connelly), not to mention a nearby bank. Directed by Dennis Hopper, "The Hot Spot" (1990) is Southern Gothic neo-noir based on Charles Williams’ 1953 book “Hell Hath No Fury” (aka “The Hot Spot”). The original script handed out to the cast was by Mike Figgis, but Hopper changed it to Williams & Nona Tyson’s screenplay from 1962 three days before shooting started. I point this out because the entire first half of the flick lazily meanders. Take the steamy Southern Gothic of Tennessee Williams, like “The Fugitive Kind” (1960), and mix it with the more modern approach of “Two Moon Junction” (1988) and that’s this movie. It has its points of interest, like the three stars, the sweltering heat of the Deep South, the Hamilton (natural) Pool and the defunct sawmill. It’s like a Tarantino flick in the Deep South, just without the great dialogues. Meanwhile the blackmail subplot involving William Sadler is contrived and eye-rolling. Hopper originally wanted Mickey Rourke for the lead role and maybe that’s what got things off to a bad start. I should add that Johnson is certainly the king of cool here and I had zero problem with him in the role; Harry is just ignoble and therefore contemptible, although he has an impressive kick-axx side to him. For something similar but superior, check out Michael Cimino’s underrated “Desperate Hours” (1990), which was released one week earlier. The film runs 2 hours, 10 minutes, and was shot in the heart of Texas as follows: Taylor (bank robbery), which is northeast of Austin; Luling (old sawmill), which is south of Austin; and Dripping Springs (swimming scenes), which is west of Austin. The sand dune sequence in the opening was shot at Monahans Sandhills State Park, which is along I-20 midway between Pecos and Midway, about 25 miles from the border of New Mexico. GRADE: C+