The Hot Spot

Year: 1990
Studio: Orion Pictures
Director: Dennis Hopper
Cast: Don Johnson, Jennifer Connelly, Virginia Madsen, William Sadler, Barry Corbin
I can't remember why I wanted to see this labyrinthine mystery thriller, but it probably had a lot to do with the delectable Jennifer Connelly, playing the innocent Veronica Lake to Virginia Madsen's scheming Marlene Dietrich.

In the middle of it all is drifter Harry (Johnson), a guy with a past and an attitude who breezes into town on the crest of the wave of his own self interest but finds a far more dangerous place than he imagined, where crisscrossing agendas will destroy him if he isn't careful.

If you've only seen Johnson in Miami Vice, you could go through your whole life not realising what an interesting actor he can be. I realised after seeing this film and A Boy and His Dog a few weeks before it that he's either astonishingly lucky or has a good eye for parts in these off-centre movies.

It has all the trappings of a straight thriller, but the grimy, sweaty Texan location, beautiful women with secrets, an in-bred criminal mastermind and a lead character straight out of a 1950s Happy Days-like world is like a Lynchian nightmare, everyone out to score in more ways than one. Liberal doses of nudity on everyone's part go a long way to steaming the lens along with the heat, and two more delicious women were hardly realised in Connelly and Madsen.

Back when Hopper was still a filmmaker with some vitality, not a fading talent cruising on the strength of past glory and dimming a little more each time.

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