Some individuals have been writing to me asking for me to “go on record” about Wesley Snipes getting sentenced to three years for not filing his tax returns. I don’t know, man. It seems to me like a bullshit sentence. You can skip down a couple paragraphs to get to BOILING POINT but I’ll say a few things here by request.
I got mixed feelings about taxes. On paper I believe in them strongly. I mean somebody’s gotta pave the fuckin streets so you hot shots can drive around on them. I like having electricity in the street lights. There’s alot of anti-tax sentiment here in Washington, there’s a rich prick who has made himself richer with a for-profit company that every election files a bunch of anti-tax propositions. They usually get shot down as unconstitutional but they’re popular so the state government ends up following them and the next thing you know the fuckin library is closed two months out of the year and the bridges are ready to collapse with no money to even tape ’em up with duct tape and there’s twice as many homeless people sleeping on my street and everybody is confused. WHY is the soccer field by my house closed?! I demand justice! … What’s that? Lower property taxes? Of course, where do I sign?
But on the other hand obviously I hate sending in my tax return and especially because I know the money’s not only (or even mostly) going to those important things like infrastructure and helping people to not die. In fact I have noticed that especially over these last 8 years they have been using my money to actually MAKE people die, which is the opposite of what I like. From what I’ve read Wesley’s “tax protest” comes from not wanting to support the government’s activities, so I can relate to that.
But a wise movie character once said “Motherfuckers always tryin to ice skate uphill,” and telling the IRS that the language in the tax code technically means that nobody has to pay taxes definitely counts as ice skating uphill. So I’m a little disappointed in Wesley on this one.
Apparently he was open about it, and even wrote letters asking if it was true that he didn’t have to pay taxes, and that’s why the jury acquitted him of all the fraud charges. He was only convicted of not filing the returns. So you’d think he’d have to pay the back taxes plus a hefty fine. I gotta admit though, there is one legit reason to lock him up. If rich people can get away with just paying money for everything then it’s not much of a deterrent for them. For example it’s like Forrest Taft explained in ON DEADLY GROUND about the polluters, it’s more profitable for them to dump the shit and get fined if they get caught then to not dump the shit. So even though Snipes obviously isn’t a threat to anybody besides vampires I can see an argument for giving him more than a fine.
But three years?! Fuck that. It’s hard to accept this when all these white people in corporations with their tax shelters and shit never get punished at all, and then they turn around and take a (completely by coincidence) black man, and a great artist in the world of Badass Cinema, and throw the book at the back of his head. I know it’s not fair that celebrities usually get more lenient treatment, but why the fuck does it have to be Wesley who they use to balance that out? I feel like I am also being punished, because I’ve been pushing for Snipes to get better roles and now they’re gonna lock him up right before he was gonna play James Brown in a Spike Lee movie? Thanks alot, assholes. If Will Smith ends up playing James Brown that judge better come to my apartment and do my dishes for a month because this shit will not stand.
And if there’s any question about whether they’re trying to be fair about it, check out the government’s sentencing recommendation. It says that Snipes being conviceted only of the misdemeanors and not the felonies “has been portrayed in the mainstream media as a ‘victory’ for Snipes. The troubling implication of such coverage for the millions of average citizens who are aware of this case is that the rich and famous Wesley Snipes has ‘gotten away with it.’ In the end the criminal conduct of Snipes must not be seen in such a light.”
First of all, Wesley Snipes is not the media. In this case he is the subject of their article. If you’re mad at the media, throw them in jail. (I recommend waiting until they commit a crime though, since this is America.)
Second of all, it was reported as a victory because it was. He was found not guilty of the felonies that could’ve got him 13 years. He was only convicted of the misdemeanors. I’m sorry, am I portraying it as if felonies are real serious and misdemeanors are less serious? I’m no lawyer so I could be wrong. Let’s check Random House:
mis·de·mean·or [mis-di-mee-ner] –noun
1. Law. a criminal offense defined as less serious than a felony.
What else was the media supposed to do? Some bullshit like “SNIPES GUILTY!” and then you turn to page D17 to find out that he was found not guilty on most of the charges and all of the serious charges? I’m surprised they didn’t do that but that wouldn’t be good journalism.
Oh, I see what’s going on here. They’re acting like idiots to show that without the taxes Wesley would’ve paid the government cannot afford to hire reasonable people as prosecutors. Well played, government.
The worst part is that we all know Wesley can’t escape. In BLADE he got pinned to a column and had to wait for Whistler to rescue him (which was awesome, he said “Catch you fuckers at a bad time?”) and then in BLADE 3 he got arrested and I thought he was gonna escape but then those kids came and rescued him, and then in a couple of his DTVs it happened too, he got locked up and had to wait to be rescued, and in UNDISPUTED he just stayed in prison and made houses out of toothpicks and wore a painter’s cap. So I don’t think he’s gonna tunnel out and secretly make BLADE 4 in New Zealand with Guillermo Del Toro while he’s “in pre-production” on the “HOBBIT” movie that he’s “going to direct.” I mean hopefully he will but there is a 50/50 chance that he will not be able to.
Ah shit, this whole thing is pissing me off, I’m nearly at my BOILING POINT, which is good because wasn’t I supposed to review a movie of that exact title? I think I was. If not too bad, I’m doing it anyway.
I found BOILING POINT in the action section at the video store (the DVD is full frame and has no extras) but don’t expect that. It’s actually a real good and slightly arty crime thriller. In fact WB kind of fucked over the director, his version was called MONEY MEN and was ten minutes longer and more focussed on Dennis Hopper’s con man character. But WB cut him down to make it seem more like a Wesley Snipes action vehicle.
But it’s still a good one. The first scene after the credits shows you what you’re dealing with cast-wise. Hopper walks up to an outdoor diner and asks for coffee. The counter man says he’ll be with him in a minute and goes over to hand a bag of food to Wesley. Wesley walks away and then Hopper is joined by his partner – Viggo fucking Mortensen! Then Wesley goes into the hotel room where he’s on a stakeout, and his partner is Dan Hedaya. Other good character actors keep popping up – Tobin Bell as a convict they’re trying to get to snitch, Seymour Cassel as a cheeseball pushing counterfeit money, Paul Gleason as “Transaction Man,” etc.
Snipes and Hedaya are treasury agents in L.A. on this undercover operation in the hotel and their buddy Russo gets killed by Mortensen. So obviously you expect it to immediately go into Snipes trying to track down the killer to avenge his buddy’s death. That’s what drives the plot but it’s not exactly the focus of the movie. Instead it takes a detour cutting between the lives of the different characters to show the parallels. Hopper and Mortensen (both fresh out of the joint) split up to go visit their old girlfriends and tell them some bullshit about going straight. But neither of them is having much success. And then we see Wesley knocking on the door of his estranged wife, and he’s having the same damn problem. She knows he can never change, he’s still the same old cop.
Then Hopper’s going around to his different friends claiming he has some big score lined up and needs some startup money, but none of them are buying it. And the real reason he needs the money is because he owes 50 grand to a gangster from whatever he was doing that got him locked up. He tries to sweet talk him but it’s no good, he only has 7 days to come up with the money. Meanwhile, Wesley is talking to his boss who tells him he’s about to be transferred to Newark, New Jersey for getting Russo killed and for not following the book and what not. Which he is not happy about. Since he sort of saw Mortensen going into the hotel room and might be able to identify him he begs to be kept on the case and so he ends up getting 7 days.
7 days, same as what Hopper gets. You see? You see? We’re all in this together.
The other thematic obsession in the movie is coincidences showing that these guys are right under each other’s noses. When they were eating at the same joint I thought Wesley was spying on Hopper, but turns out he didn’t even know who the guy was. Later they actually piss next to each other in a public restroom! Then Hopper hires a hooker to take her out dancing, she goes home and turns out to be Wesley’s girlfriend! So it gets kind of ridiculous but I like how they handle it because it doesn’t end up being how they break the case or anything, in fact they never really acknowledge their connections. It’s not important for the plot but just to show how similar they are and how they can cross paths so many times without even seeing each other. They’re so alike and they never have any idea.
Ever since EASTERN PROMISES I’ve been meaning to go back and watch some of those early Viggo performances, but I actually forgot this was one of them when I rented it in solidarity with Wesley. Of course back then he wasn’t as great as he is now, but this is a pretty good one. He could play it as just a tough guy psychopath but he’s much more subtle about it, revealing different sides of the character at different times. At first he seems like that young guy at the beginning of A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, he’s a naive guy being manipulated by Hopper. Then you start to find out more about his background and realize he’s less of a beginner than you thought.
Hopper keeps conning him and getting him to endanger himself and he’s too dumb and trusting to catch on. When he ends up killing some people he comes a little more alive and you can see that he gets off on it, and does weird little things like kissing his shotgun before ditching it or giggling as he runs away even though he’s usually stoic.
(Apparently some scenes with his girlfriend were cut out from that longer version, so maybe there was more to him too.)
Most of the characters have little quirks that make them more human, especially Hopper. He’s introduced strutting in two-tone shoes, he likes going to a ’40s big band dance place. He seems pretty sincere about trying to woo back his old sweetheart, but on the other hand she points out that he made her turn tricks to try to settle his debts. Which is generally considered uncool. Or at least I’m against it anyway, I don’t want to speak for everybody.
But that part of Hopper’s personality makes him more sympathetic and also makes the movie more classy because it allows for retro music on the soundtrack. It’s only during the end credits that they blow it and play some cheesy blues-rock bullshit.
Wesley’s character is a little more normal, but a little sad since his girlfriend spends her nights with Dennis fuckin Hopper and he can’t do anything about it! That’s kind of pathetic. But this role takes advantage of most of Wesley’s non martial arts skills. He’s a quick thinker, a tough guy and a pretty damn good dresser for a cop. You kind of want to be him, even though his life sucks.
One other weird touch I noticed – Wesley’s son has some framed jazz records (including A Love Supreme) on his bedroom wall. Most little kids aren’t into Coltrane, I wonder where that came from.
I thought this was a good one, but apparently alot of people disagree. Some of the individuals on the IMDb message boards feel that it should be held to the standards of an action movie as if it’s by accident that it’s not that kind of movie. One guy complained “The only action with him is when he ranned out of the way of the explosion.” But I think if you’re looking for more of a drama thriller you will enjoy it. Hopper gives an especially good performance in an interesting character more nuanced than the mad bomber types we all got sick of him playing.
The director is James B. Harris, who produced some of the early Kubrick movies and then only directed 5 movies. The first one was THE BEDFORD INCIDENT and the last one was this. He wrote the movie based on a novel by Gerald Petievich, which explains alot. That’s the same guy who wrote the book of TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. based on his own experiences in the secret service. This movie has less action, a smaller scale and takes place mostly in the L.A. night instead of sunny L.A. day time, but it definitely reminded me of that one not just because of the subject matter but because of the way it shows the job going good or bad on the basis of smarts, balls and weird fucking random luck.
Anyway, good one Wesley.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.