Wesley Snipes is a treasury agent whose partner gets killed on an undercover bust gone wrong. Now he’s hell-bent on tracking down the guilty party, who turns out to be Viggo Mortensen. Mortensen is the younger sidekick of no-good con artist Dennis Hopper, a career screw-up in a seriously tight spot, who is setting the younger guy up on his latest scam involving counterfeit money. Hopper is trying to get his life back on track after a stint in the can, but he’s already $50,000 in debt to mobster/loan shark Tony Lo Bianco, and that guy ain’t messing around. Snipes, who is being transferred in a week, and Hopper, who is given a week to pay his debt to Lo Bianco, are obviously headed for a collision. Caught in between these two men is prostitute Lolita Davidovich, whose services both men hire. Valerie Perrine is Hopper’s long-suffering waitress ex-girlfriend whose good books he is attempting to get back into, whilst Snipes has his own ex, who he shares a son with. Seymour Cassel and Tobin Bell play criminal associates of Hopper, one imprisoned, the other not. Jonathan Banks is a slimy corporate jerk Hopper attempts to get financial help from, James Tolkan is Snipes’ superior, Dan Hedaya is Snipes’ other partner, Christine Elise is the junkie girlfriend of no-good Mortensen, and Paul Gleason plays a man Hopper and Mortensen meet at a drop-off situation.
1993 misfire from the strangely sporadic writer-director James B. Harris (1965’s “The Bedford Incident”, 1988’s “Cop”) feels like a 70s police procedural, but a bad one with Wesley Snipes shoe-horned in as the hero. It’s a complete waste of time (as is the fact that Harris gives himself separate credits for writing and directing. What other writer-director does that?) and a helluva cast full of interesting character actors, with veteran mobster player Tony Lo Bianco strangely disappearing in the second half, leading to a ridiculously underwhelming ending, because Dennis Hopper is supposed to be our lead villain, and he’s not threatening at all. Apparently Warner Bros. dicked around with the film, changing it from a film primarily about Dennis Hopper’s character to a film primarily about Wesley Snipes’ character. To me, the original version doesn’t sound any better, but changing the title from “Money Men” to “Boiling Point” and selling it as a Wesley Snipes action movie was definitely a mistake, as the film isn’t remotely exciting or thrilling and it’s easy to see why it went straight-to-video here in Australia.
Viggo Mortensen mumbles most of his lines and still ends up stealing the show (with Seymour Cassel not far behind, and clearly having fun). I believe that’s called star quality and charisma, folks. The late Paul Gleason has a terrific cameo, it’s a real shame he only has the one scene. Ditto “Saw” villain Tobin Bell as a criminal acquaintance of Hopper’s. But the story itself is tedious and antiquated, it should’ve starred Charles Bronson in the Snipes role, Henry Silva in for Dennis Hopper (though the character most reminds one of the desperate losers Richard Widmark used to play in the late 40s and early 50s), Paul Koslo for Mortensen, and Lo Bianco could still play his own part. It’s tired, clichéd stuff that familiar faces can’t save, though at least Snipes is immaculately dressed. Snipes even interrogates a junkie at one point. Geez. Why not throw in Elisha Cook Jr. as the local morgue attendant or something?
Snipes is a helluva talent and charismatic as hell, but not the best chooser of scripts. Here he’s in low-key mode, which isn’t his strong suit, and the character isn’t likeable enough to be the hero anyway. Dennis Hopper, meanwhile, is hamstrung by his weak role. The character seems like it should be the lead villain (and perhaps in the original version it was) purely because Hopper is playing him, but his character is surprisingly ineffectual, a ne’er do well con artist, which hardly makes for an exciting lead villain. But I doubt the changes did anything, because it’s obvious that the criminal plot here is underwhelming to begin with. Counterfeit money? Phony poker chips? Really? That and the fact that Hopper seems like too small a fish to want to see brought down and not likeable enough to want to see get away with it, really sinks this film. And like I said, Tony Lo Bianco disappears towards the end, and I’m pretty sure he’s the bigger criminal here, even if he’s not actually the criminal behind this scam. You feel like he should be. Character actor Jonathan Banks probably provides the most menace here, and even his character is just a corrupt corporate-type. On the female side of things, Valerie Perrine is always fun to have around and still looks terrific, and Christine Elise is perfectly cast in a small part. Lolita Davidovich, however, is far too obvious and clichéd casting in a poorly defined role. I’m shocked that she got her name before the title here. I mean, when was the last time you even saw her in something, 2003 maybe? In 1993, I don’t recall her being a huge star or anything, but nonetheless, she’s credited just after Snipes and Hopper. Wow.
This is tragically underwhelming, unacceptable stuff that even in a bygone era probably wouldn’t have sufficed. When it’s all over, you’ll be left wondering: Is that all? Really? Based on a novel by Gerald Petievich (“To Live and Die in L.A.”, “The Sentinel”), presumably written a long, long time ago.