|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Wednesday, 07 October 1998|
If not for the big names in the cast and the occasional colorful expression in the dialogue, viewers could be forgiven for supposing that 'Boiling Point' is an episode of a fairly decent contemporary cop show. The sensibility is much the same, with people on both sides of the law methodically going about their business.
Based on the novel 'Money Men' by Gerald Petievich (who also wrote the book that served as the basis for 'To Live and Die in L.A.'), 'Boiling Point' follows the crossed paths of Federal Treasury agent Jimmy Mercer (Wesley Snipes) and con man/counterfeit cash distributor Red (Dennis Hopper). Both men have seven-day deadlines imposed upon them by their higher-ups. A week is all the time Jimmy is given (unofficially, at that) to find the person or persons who killed his partner during the course of a sting operation, before he's shipped out from Los Angeles to Newark. Red's young new partner Ronnie (Viggo Mortensen) is the shooter, but neither one imagine there will be any heat on investigating the crime, as both suppose the victim was a fellow funny-money man. However, Red has other problems. Just released after doing five years in prison, he owes $50,000 to some very nasty people who feel that half a decade is long enough to wait to get their money back. They demand that Red repay them with all due speed . . . or else.
In 'Boiling Point,' writer/director James B. Harris takes a relatively low-key tone that is curiously refreshing for the genre. Seeing a cops-and-robbers film in which testosterone is kept in check in favor of procedural work makes for a change from the usual crash-bang-boom posturing that tends to go with the territory. When something blows up here, in Chapter 13 for example, it's actually unsettling rather than routine. On the other hand, the endless scenes of Jimmy wrangling with his ex-wife and making nice to his prostitute girlfriend, while well-acted, go exactly where innumerable cop dramas have gone before.
Also, the limited aspect ratio on this DVD release does 'Boiling Point' no favors, simply enhancing the TV episode effect. Still, the color reproduction is beautiful, with satiny dark blues and hellish reds vivid throughout King Baggot's sharp cinematography. The sound is also commendable, so clear that individual voices can be heard contributing to the big band numbers on the soundtrack in Chapters 1 and 24 and performed onscreen in Chapter 18. Snipes is fine as his usual tough guy with a conscience. Even Red is not as distinctly drawn as he might be, but the uncharacteristically muted Hopper finds a core of last-gasp optimism in the character that actually makes us feel sorry for this Willy Loman of a crook. Otherwise, 'Boiling Point' is competent, but largely routine.