"The Hot Spot" (1990) from Orion Pictures is one of Dennis Hopper's rare directing projects other than the legendary "Easy Rider," and he makes the most of it. We have the usual tale of a drifter (Don Johnson) who winds up in what appears to be a sleepy little town, but which actually is crawling with intrigue. He pulls off a bank heist and is under suspicion by the Sheriff (Barry Corbin), but that is just the start of his problems. A romantic triangle then develops between Johnson, the wife of his boss (Virginia Madsen), and a shy young clerk where he works (hot young Jennifer Connelly).
|Harry Maddox, used car salesman|
Don Johnson is his usual winning self as the scheming Harry Maddox. You know what to expect with Don Johnson: smooth with the ladies, affable to everyone, conniving when nobody is looking. He is the essence of cool. Jennifer Connelly and Virginia Madsen are around to represent opposite ends of the romantic pole: Connelly sweet and apparently innocent, Madsen scheming and vixenish. You never know what to expect in Jennifer Connelly films, and this is one of her best. Maddox has no trouble handling one of the ladies, but the other proves to be his match. He handles everything thrown at him without any trouble at all, but somebody gets what she wants from him despite his weak protestations. Remember, Don Johnson is the guy who in real life was caught driving with a billion dollars in his car. A BILLION DOLLARS. You don't get any cooler than that.
|Jennifer Connelly and Don Johnson|
There are all sorts of little flourishes that mark this as a Dennis Hopper film. One is the fact that Connelly's character, who had been a child star, disrobes and (it is implied) has a lesbian fling.
|Virginia Madsen at the wheel of a pink 1959 Cadillac|
Another is that Virginia Madsen's Dolly Harshaw is flagrantly sexual in a very direct way. There are no two ways around it, when Hopper said he wanted a sex scene, he meant it, and actors complied.
|Jennifer Connelly with her usual innocent expression|
The most famous scene in the film is when Connelly goes down to the lake with a gal pal (a very topless Debra Cole) and takes off her bikini, top and bottom. Believe me, the film is worth watching just to see that spectacular moment in cinematic history. Of all Jennifer Connelly films, this is probably the best.
|Jennifer Connelly enjoying the sun|
It appears that Connelly herself also goes bottomless in that scene, in a dorsal kind of way, if you get my meaning. Others think it is a body double, but it appears to be her. In any event, in HD you get a pretty good view of just about everything that is on display. So, you should definitely not go the Blu-ray route if that sort of thing offends you. And the reverse. And so on.
|Jennifer Connelly looking fine in her black bikini|
There are some who still take the time to argue over whether Madsen's sex scenes or Connelly's are hotter. Madsen, according to Hopper, was "very embarrassed" by the amount of her nudity in this film. To me, this is a pointless argument, and she has nothing of which to be ashamed. Both ladies go the extra mile, and they both are at the peak of their hotness. Why make it a competition? While Connelly will draw you in, you might very well conclude that the very accomodating Madsen turns out to be the film's secret weapon. Hopper was a very, very wise man, and here he had a full arsenal of loveliness with which to play.
|Jennifer Connelly and Don Johnson going for a refreshing swim|
Be that as it may, one must take a stand in life: Jennifer's appearance is by far the sexiest thing on the screen, as you would expect in Jennifer Connelly films. It is because of how innocently she is portrayed and how unexpectedly it appears, as if from a different film. Madsen is sexy, but she plays a tramp, and the unveiling of a tramp is never as fine as that of a virginal little darling. You know (or remember?) that girl in high school/college, the one who is/was just so sweet and innocent and apparently oblivious to her own smokin' curves? Well, that's Jennifer in this film.
|This is heavily cropped, out of necessity|
If the screenshots above do not make you want to see this romantic thriller, then stay far, far away from it and thank me for the heads up, because what you see there is just the appetizer for the main attraction. On the other hand, if those shots do entice you, then you are likely to agree with me that this is a great, sexy, "drifter gets in deeper and deeper in the wrong town" kind of film. They made very good sleaze of this type in the '80s (see "Two Moon Junction" and "Mischief," for instance) and even much later (Femme Fatale). Jennifer Connelly herself quickly went on to a staring role in her next film, "Career Opportunities," which is notorious for focusing about as much on Jennifer's clothed body as is physically possible. "The Hot Spot" is at the top of the pile, the bonus being Johnson in the lead and Connelly before she won her Oscar. A great way to spend an evening.
Below is the original trailer.