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Boiling Point: A Slightly Enjoyable Cop Drama from Wesley Snipes and Dennis Hopper

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Not many people remember the 1993 cop movie Boiling Point any more, and it's not too hard to see why. (Tagline: "He's a cop who's reached the... Boiling Point.") It's only 16 years old, but it looks like it was made in the '80s, and its two stars -- Wesley Snipes and Dennis Hopper -- have both aged badly this decade. Its plot, which follows Snipes's pursuit of small-time hood Dennis Hopper through an underworld of counterfeiting and petty cons, was much better done in To Live and Die in LA (rating: 89). (Boiling Point and To Live and Die in LA are based on novels by the same author, Gerald Petievich.) Still, there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half: there's a terrific cast, and it's a decent potboiler.

The biggest strength is the cast, a murderer's row of "that guy"s: Dan Hedaya, Seymour Cassel, Paul Gleason, James Tolkan, and Tobin Bell. And the two leads are good too, playing characters more flawed and less slick than in most movies of the type. Wesley Snipes is clearly a cop who plays by his own rules, as you'd expect, but he's less glamorous and more of a screwup than most. The film opens with Hopper and Mortensen executing an undercover cop while Snipes is in the next room, monitoring the wire. When Snipes finally gets his revenge, it's unsatisfying: Hopper's too pathetic, not nearly enough of an evil genius for it to be satisfying. Both Snipes and Hopper are divorced; both men share an emotional connection with a prostitute played by Lolita Davidovich. Mortensen is Hopper's protege, a cold-blooded killer with utter loyalty to Hopper.

At the time, Snipes was a huge star, and deservedly so: between 1991 and 1994, he made a flurry of good movies in wildly diverse genres: New Jack City (rating: 73), Jungle Fever (rating: 70), White Men Can't Jump (75), Passenger 57 (rating: 65), Rising Sun (rating: 79), Demolition Man (rating: 84), Sugar Hill, and Drop Zone (rating: 80). Hopper, almost too pathetic to root against, wasn't yet the predictable psycho-for-hire that he became after 1994's Speed (rating: 80).

It's a straightforward movie. No twists, no gratuitous explosions, no nonsense. Frankly, it could stand to be a bit more exciting -- the cinematography is mediocre, the scope is narrow, and the stakes aren't high enough: Snipes is never really in danger, and though Mortensen is genuinely scary, Hopper's too pitiful to be frightening. Still, if you go in with no expectations, the movie might not disappoint.

Rating: 63

Crossposted on Remingtonstein.