THE HOT SPOT (1990)

 Directed By: Dennis Hopper
Written By: Nona Tyson & Charles Williams 
Based on The book “ HELL HATH NO FURY” by: Charles Williams 
Cinematography: Ueli Steiger 
Editor: Wende Phifer Mate

Cast: Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen, Jennifer Connolly, Willam Sadler, Barry Corbin, Charles Martin Smith, Leon Rippy, Jack Nance, Jerry Hardin, Virgil Frye 

Upon arriving at a small town, a drifter quickly gets into trouble with the local authorities – and the local women – after he robs a bank.


This is one of those films I have heard about over the years that has gained a certain reputation. As for some, it’s a lost classic for others it might be an overhyped potboiler. 

The film seems to be slow as the story is revealed in what feels like real-time. Which could feel monotonous for some audience Members, but actually works for the film. Not only as a slow burn but leaves the audience to kindly walk in the shoes of the characters. Never quite knowing what is going to happen next or the next shoe is going to drop.

As we go throughout of course this is a noir tale that feels familiar. As we recognize the types but still offers surprises. As to the depths of certain characters and the ever-present blackmailing of characters.

Though from the outset it seems obvious who is going to fall into bed with whom. As the obvious more attractive members of the cast are set. Showing who are the true stars of the film. They work in their roles but can’t say they subtly appear with the rest of the cast.

As director Dennis Hopper has so much talent in front of the camera and behind. Filled with plenty of character actors who more set the scenes even though they don’t have much to do but be there and be witnesses to the actions going on around them.

This fits into noir more comfortably as it is a cynical film where the more innocent characters are either made to suffer or are natural-born victims. Whereas the more deprived characters seem to be the more successful ones and the ones the film and more interest in as more naturally they are more interesting even if they all don’t make it to the end.

The film has the aura of the type of film you would find for straight to cable or straight to how. Video in it’s days of release. That is how it was more discovered after being a box office bomb. Though it clearly deserved more credit than that. 

While the film certainly feels dirty and sleazy. it never quite feels as erotic or sexy as it should. That element while here and strong, especially As Virginia Madsen scorches the screen and has one of her finest performances. As a character who could easily have been cliche but offers up some surprises. It never feels like it rises to the occasion.

As it feels though, a driving force to the story oddly secondary and more means to an end. It’s necessary but not concentrated and maybe Dennis hopper as a known hedonist decided to try to pull back a little and focus on performances.

Strangely Dennis Hopper directed movies other than EASY RIDER & OUT OF THE BLUE. Always come off as sterile to a degree which includes this one. Though that might be out of expectations considering the man and his legacy. His later directed films seem more sedate as they slowly come from wilder independent to oddly more mainstream studio films. 

Jennifer Connolly plays the young innocent who is hiding her own secrets though also pulls at the heartstrings of the amoral drifter. Who he kind of see’s as his salvation or someone for him to rescue. As she seems usually In over her head or taken advantage of. Though in this film there is no denying her talent or her beauty.

As here he makes no short cuts or quick cuts. It feels kind of old school. As when these types of stories are brought to the big screen. Commonly they either play slick like they are smarter than the audience or believe the audience knows all the cliches so they offer more a sense of humor or spin on them or they tighten the narrative and scenes so much that each one feels either rushed or full of tension even when there doesn’t need to be. 

This takes its time and still offers up its own little surprises as well as what is expected. 

Grade: C+

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