Barely works up to a simmer: “Boiling Point”

January 28, 2013

BoilingpointpostOkay, so next up in what is turning out to be “Obscure Action Movies” week is 1993’s Wesley Snipes vehicle Boiling Point, and this film–unlike City of Industryprobably deserves to be unseen. It’s not that Boiling Point is a bad film necessarily…well, no, actually it is. But still, it genuinely tries to be good…wait, no, actually it’s a pretty weak offing. Nonetheless, Boiling Point features some great actors turning in some…really, really, blank performances. So, yeah, if you ever wanted to see Wesley Snipes, Dennis Hopper, Viggo Mortensen, and Lolita Davidovich just kind of pleasantly phoning it in, then this is the flick for you.

So, the plot—hey don’t get comfortable, this is only gonna take a couple sentences. Con-man Rudy “Red Diamond” (Hopper) is fresh from a five-year stint in Terminal Island and back on the streets of LA, where he’s in deep to mobster Tony Dio (Tony LoBianco). To pay off the 50K debt, he teams up with a none-too-bright fellow inmate, Ronnie (Mortensen), and the two of them use an old stash of counterfeit bills to set up various deals and then rip off the mark—who is summarily dispatched with a sawed-off shotgun by Ronnie.

Problem is, as the movie begins, the mark Ronnie has just whacked is actually an undercover Secret Service Agent working an op run by agent Jimmy Mercer (Snipes). Mercer manages to buy himself a week to bag the killers, but since no one saw the killer (or Diamond), he’s got a tough to hoe. Likewise, Diamond has only a week to cough up the 50 grand. See the nifty symmetry there?

"I owe HOW MUCH in back taxes?"

“I owe HOW MUCH in back taxes?”

These characters all have girl trouble, too. Mercer’s wife has kicked him out and is seeing a new guy. Diamond’s wife (Valerie Perrine) is done with being a prison-widow and also kicked him to curb. Meanwhile, Ronnie hooks back up with his ex (Christine Elise—the weird-faced-but-still-cute doctor from ER a while back) and…well, he smacks her and she warms right up to him. Whether she’s terrified of him, or really into the rough stuff isn’t really clear, but Ronnie’s pretty much the big winner in the love game.

Weird-faced girls are hawt.

Weird-faced girls are hawt.

At the same time, Red likes going to a retro-dance club and boogie down to old ‘40s standards, and to this end, he pays high-class escort Vikki (Davidovich) to be his dance partner. Also, Jimmie happens to be one of her regulars, and wants her to run away with him after he bags Red and turns in his badge. Kinda makes his wife’s decision to give him the boot seem pretty reasonable, doesn’t it?

Well, the movie plods along to its mildly-exciting climatic shootout which leaves Ronnie duly perforated and Red heading back to the joint. And absolutely nothing interesting or surprising happens until that point.

"That's a lot of IRS guys...okay, Plan B..."

“That’s a lot of IRS guys…okay, Plan B…Africa, here I come!”

Boiling Point is an adaptation of an early novel by To Live and Die in L.A.  novelist Gerald Petievich titled, Money Men. The first mistake that writer/director James B. Harris makes is adapting Petievich’s novel faithfully. Petievich’s earlier works were short, uncomplicated, not-terribly satisfying reads. Kind of the Combos of pulp novels. It was William Friedkin that took TLaDiLA and made it a moody, anti-transcendentalist take on ‘80s urbanity. Pretty much all that movie’s complexity and Heart of Darkness-style moral descent was Friedkin’s. In the novel, the movie’s heroes were a sideshow of incompetence and had no bearing on getting the bad guy (who was got by a character Friedkin killed off early on in the film).

The result is a none-too-interesting storyline that couldn’t pass muster on an episode of CSI. The various intersections of the good guys and bad guys could conceivably been mined into some compelling character work, but Davis just doesn’t have the depths to pull it off. Instead it just makes LA seem like it has, maybe a dozen living there, tops.

Snipes glides through the movie with his usual effortless charisma, but isn’t given anything interesting to do or say. Hopper, for his part, dials back the crazy, but Diamond never comes alive as a character—no matter how sympathetic the movie tries to make him. Mortensen suffers the worst, playing a one-dimensional goof so dumb he barely has any personal agency (how he bagged a weird-faced cutie like Elise can only explained by the fact he looks like a young Viggo Mortensen). Only one scene—a negotiation with a crooked lawyer—allows him to show the barest hints of the thoughtful, exciting actor he actually is.

"For Frodo!" "WHAT?!?"

“For Frodo!” “WHAT?!?”

Plus the music is really, really bad. It’s that weird atonal chords thing that was big in ‘90s made-for-cable movies.

Anyway, you can kill some time with Boiling Point, but that’s about it. The whole movie so slapped-together I kinda wonder if it wasn’t an elaborate tax dodge or something. I mean, Snipes is in it, after all…

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