Case Number 26059: Small Claims Court


The Hot Spot
Shout! Factory // 1990 // 130 Minutes // Rated R
Killing Me Softly
Shout! Factory // 2002 // 100 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis (Retired) // August 4th, 2013

The Charge

There are only two things to do in this small town. One is watching TV.

The Case

When watching a double feature, I generally expect some kind of continuity between the two movies, not just some random pair. The combination of 1990's The Hot Spot and 2002's Killing Me Softly isn't totally incongruousâ"-both are sexy movies starring B+ level talentâ"-but they're too far apart in almost every way to make it a strange pairing.

The Hot Spot focuses on Harry Madox (Don Johnson, A Boy and His Dog), a small time crook who has just driven into a desolate Texas town. He gets a job selling cars, where he meets Gloria Harper (Jennifer Connelly, Requiem for a Dream), the good girl who works the financing for the place, and Dolly Harshaw (Virginia Madsen, Candyman), the sultry wife of his boss. As he starts falling for both, he discovers the distinct lack of security at the local bank and gets the idea to rob it.

Killing Me Softly brings us Alice (Heather Graham, Swingers), a bored housewife who works at a bank. One day, she crosses paths with Adam Tallis (Joseph Fiennes, Shakespeare in Love), a handsome mountain climber with a shady past. The sex is so great that she leaves her husband for him, but his violent tendencies start to emerge as Alice digs for the truth behind an ill-fated expedition that left his former fiance dead.

The only thing that connects these two movies is sex and there's a lot of it. That's really the only calling card of Killing Me Softly, which has some of the dumbest storytelling of its time and a plot that really belongs a decade earlier when Basic Instinct was super popular. Heather Graham is nice to look at, of course, and Joseph Fiennes can brood with the best of them, but it's pretty much worthless.

Director Chen Kaige (The Emperor and the Assassin falls flat on his face in his first American film, with a flat, style-free production that nobody wanted more of. Based on a novel by Sean French, with its bored wife protagonist and hints of light S&M, it does what I assume Fifty Shades of Grey tries to do, not that I'm ever going to read that book to confirm. Anyway, the less said about the movie, the better. It's based on a novel of the same name by the husband and wife thriller duo Nicci French and it's a poorly put together film in almost every way.

The Hot Spot, technically, may not be that much better than Killing Me Softly, but it's a whole lot more fun. Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider) directs here at his giddiest. Based on the 1953 Charles Williams novel, Hell Hath No Fury, the crime in this crime story comes secondary to the steamy dialog and ridiculous posing of the three sexy leads. Jennifer Connelly is the good girl, standing arms cross, her hair blowing in the wind, looking longingly into the distance. Virginia Madsen is the bad seed, the bored rich temptress who likes to talk dirty into the phone while looking at the camera and shaving her legs. In between them is Don Johnson, who always looks like he's just about to pull off his shirt and, when he finally does, his old-fashioned noir portrayal of A Man is pretty hilarious to watch.

The story really does leave a lot to be desired, but it's one of the sexier entries in that era's crime genre and they put together a great cast of character actors to work around the trio. People like Jerry Hardin (Big Trouble in Little China), Barry Corbin (No Country for Old Men), William Sadler (Die Hard 2), and Jack Nance (Wild at Heart) make the town seem like a chaotic nightmare. The characters and performances make it seem ripped from page of a bad comic book, but that's what makes it so entertaining.

This double feature comes to Blu-ray from Shout! Factory, with both films on a single disc. It's a fine release if all you're looking for are the movies, but the images aren't anything special. Killing Me Softly looks pretty sharp. I don't know if there was any clean up done to the print, but it has good clarity and accurate, intentionally soft colors. The Hot Spot isn't as good as it could be, with some dirt and scratches on the print, but the image looks much better overall than it did on DVD. The sound on both films is adequate, with nothing standing out about either. There are no extras for either movie.

The Hot Spot may not be a very good movie, but it's weird and fun, with a few of the sexiest performers of the era teamed with the oddest looking people possible. I'll defend it and continue to love it, no matter how silly it may be. Killing Me Softly is just dumb, with a stupid story and no good reason to watch at any point. At its pricing, though, the pairing is worth it for The Hot Spot, so I guess it warrants a mild recommendation.

The Verdict

The Hot Spot is too much fun to convict; Killing Me Softly is about as guilty as it gets.

Review content copyright © 2013 Daryl Loomis; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice, The Hot Spot
Judgment: 84

Perp Profile, The Hot Spot
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)

* None

Running Time: 130 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks, The Hot Spot
* None

Scales of Justice, Killing Me Softly
Judgment: 74

Perp Profile, Killing Me Softly
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)

* None

Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Unrated

Distinguishing Marks, Killing Me Softly
* None

* IMDb: The Hot Spot

* IMDb: Killing Me Softly