• Hot Spot, The/Killing Me Softly



    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: August 13, 2013.
    Director: Dennis Hopper/Kaige Chen
    Cast: Don Johnson, Jennifer Connelly, Virginia Madsen/Heather Graham, Joseph Fiennes
    Year: 1990/2002
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    The Movies:

    Shout! Factory unleashes a ‘sexy thriller’ double feature with this disc, teaming up 1990’s The Hot Spot with 2002’s Killing Me Softly. These were amusing enough in their respective heydays… how do they hold up?

    The Hot Spot:

    The first film, directed by none other than Dennis Hoppper, introduces us to Harry Madox (Don Johnson), a stranger with a past who wanders into a small Texas town here he lands a job as used car salesman working for a lot owner named George Harshaw (Jerry Hardin). As he’s new in town, he holes up in a local hotel but seemingly by chance, a fire breaks out and it’s then that he can’t help but notice that the bank across the street has been left completely unprotected.

    From here, Harry figures he can literally get away with bank robbery. He starts poking around and doing some preliminary planning and decides to start a fire in his own room and see if lightning will strike twice – it does, unbeknownst to anyone else. As Harry and George get to know one another better, he winds up meeting his wife, Dolly (Virginia Madsen). She’s obviously quite attracted to her husband’s new hire and so behind George’s back, she has her way with him. When the local authorities start to close in on Harry in regards to the bank robbery, Dolly gives him an alibi to keep him out of prison but then proceeds to blackmail him into having an affair with her. What Dolly doesn’t know is that Harry’s already fallen for Gloria Harper (Jennifer Connelly), an accountant at George’s dealership. Gloria’s got secrets of her own, however, as she’s being manipulated by an unscrupulous man named Frank Sutton (William Sadler)…

    At over two hours in length The Hot Spot is longer than it needs to be but otherwise it’s a pretty entertaining movie. Hopper goes for a hard R here, offering up some surprisingly graphic nudity from both Virginia Madsen and a then nineteen year old Jennifer Connelly in ample amounts. Going for a sort of sun baked film noir look and feel, Hopper’s movie looks great, you can feel the heat of the Texas locations as the tension in the storyline mounts. There are a few solid twists here, the story is interesting and sordid enough to hold your attention and the score works in the context of the film even if it’s a bit dated.

    The cast members are all quite good here as well. Don Johnson does a great job in the lead here, he’s just as immoral as everyone else in the movie and he plays the part of the womanizing thief very well. Madsen vamps it up in grand sexy style while Connelly has the ‘sexy good girl’ thing down perfectly in this movie. Throw in William Sadler as a sleazy nogoodnik and you can see why Hopper cast this one the way that he did. Ultimately it’s very much a product of its late eightes/early nineties environment in many ways but this film, which lovingly deals in one film noir convention after the next, also feels like it could have just as easily been a product of the late forties (you know, had it not been loaded with nudity). The Hot Spot is a fun watch and the real reason anyone is going to want to own this disc.

    Killing Me Softly:

    Up next, Kaige Chen’s 2002 movie, Killing Me Softly, stars Heather Graham as an American website designer named Alice who works for some big corporation in London. She lives with her boyfriend and their relationship obviously lacks spark. She obviously wants more out of life than to spend the hours withering away with this guy so it makes sense that when she meets a dashing mountaineer named Adam (Joseph Fiennes) that she’d fall for him. And when you look at her, it’s easy to see why he’d reciprocate.

    And so they embark on a whirlwind romance having all sorts of great sex in different locations and in different positions and shortly after, they’re going to get hitched. Once they do, Alice starts wondering if maybe marrying some guy she hasn’t known all that long and really just bumped uglies with rather than actually bothered to get to know was such a great idea after all? She starts poking around to figure out who he really is and soon realizes she’s not going to necessarily love the answer to that question…

    Killing Me Softly has one thing going for it – graphic sex scenes with a naked Heather Graham. That’s really about it. She and Fiennes go at it like rabbits but in the scenes where they’re not grinding, they’re dull to watch. On top of that, the mystery about Adam’s past? It’s also dull. And then there’s Alice herself, who is plenty easy on the eyes and lots of fun to look at, but completely devoid of personality and as such, comes across as… dull. In its unrated form as it’s presented here, the movie does not want for bouncing breasts and giggling asses, but that’s really all that it’s got going for it aside from that fact that it has some nice glossy camerawork and decent production values.

    Heather Graham fanatics will be glad to have this on Blu-ray as it’s definitely up there in terms of the celebrity skin factor (it probably surpasses Boogie Nights in that regard) but those looking for a good story? Genuine on screen chemistry? A plot? Well, they can probably hit eject after they finish first movie.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Both movies are framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and receive AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer. Both movies feature some fairly soft cinematography so you don’t always get the sort of eye popping detail you might hope for but there’s no denying that there look better than they could have on DVD. Grain is present, as it should be, but there aren’t any serious issues with heavy print damage at all aside from a few minor specks here and there. Colors are good and seem to be represented quite naturally here, skin tones as well, though there are times where the image quality in Killing Me Softly seems pretty little flat. The Hot Spot is the better looking of the two movies by quite a margin, it’s only real flaw being that there are some moments where the lights go dim and the grain becomes more prominent than you might want but otherwise, it’s nice.

    Each film gets an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track and for the most part, they sound fine. Don’t expect a whole lot of channel separation for either movie and there isn’t a ton of depth here but for movies that are basically made up of talky scenes and some melodramatic scores, what’s here works just fine.

    Aside from a static menu, the disc contains no extra features.

    The Final Word:

    Neither one of these is really a classic, but The Hot Spot has a pretty great cast and offers up some cheap noirish thrills, a tight script and some enjoyable late eighties charm. Killing Me Softly… not so much. But hey, Heather Graham looks great in it and she’s naked a lot, so there’s that.


    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!