The Hot Spot (1990)


This review shouldn’t contain any spoilers.

The Hot Spot is a film by Dennis Hopper featuring Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen and Jennifer Connelly. It takes place in Landers, Texas (a fictional town), and tells the story of Harry Madox, an underachiever newly settled in the area who gets a job as a car salesman and plots to rob the local bank that is left without protection on the day there’s a fire in town…

I must say that this film was quite Texan, or “southwestern”, as some like to put it, everything reminded me of that stereotypical image of Texas I’ve had in some films like No Country for Old Men (2007), it could have gone very wrong from the start, but characters like Lon Gulick (played by Charles Martin Smith) make it quite comical; the sniffing scene is a great moment of cinema.

I haven’t read the (pulp fiction!) book on which the story is based: Hell Hath No Fury by Charles Williams, so I can’t comment on how well the film adapts the story in the book, but I’m interested in that book so I may end up reading it on some rainy Sunday.

When it comes to the main characters, they fall into place perfectly, and while I don’t really like Don Johnson for his role in Miami Vice, I feel his part in The Hot Spot was a lot better overall, he’s a quite satisfactory neo-noir (anti-)hero and fits in perfectly with the grotesque personas he has to deal with. Virginia Madsen’s character is the character I love to hate, she’s despicable in every way, and she may be the most interesting in the entire film. Jennifer Connelly plays an innocent young woman and her character isn’t interesting per se, it’s just a welcome addition to the story because it brings an infatuation that allows for some character development and interesting backstory.

There are many sides of American puritanism in this film: female hairlessness, Hollywood nudity — where genitalia is more or less concealed from the viewer — and an apparent obsession with sexiness instead of sex, but I didn’t expect anything else. Overall, it’s a decent film and may inspire some skinny-dipping, but the water’s too cold…