Though it is being sold as if it's a sequel to Wesley Snipes' "Passenger 57," "Boiling Point" never percolates. In fact, it hardly works its temperature up to tepid.

What "Boiling Point" wants to be is a gritty film noir character study rather than an action thriller. But the bland screenplay and direction are not very involving. And since action scenes are cut short, the film will likely feel like a cheat to the audience.

But there are some fine performances, from a bevy of seasoned character actors as well as the leads, Snipes and Dennis Hopper.

Snipes plays a burned-out FBI agent who is given one week before a reluctant transfer to Newark to track down the killer that shot down his partner in cold blood.

And the film gives equal time to a manipulative con artist, Hopper, sporting red hair and a cocky walk, who is the brains, if not the trigger, behind that murder.

Hopper, fresh out of prison, immediately sets about using a slow-witted gunman (Viggo Mortensen) to do his dirty work as he tries to build some cash flow, with the help of counterfeit bills. And he needs that cash flow, since he's in $50,000 to a mobster (Tony Lo Bianco) and has only a week to pay it back.

The film teases the audience repeatedly, having Snipes and Hopper unknowingly cross paths, even romancing the same high-class hooker (Lolita Davidovich). But what should have developed into a confrontation of wills instead becomes merely a contrived conceit.

Female characters really get the short shrift here, as either hookers, drug abusers or willing victims. Even the most sympathetic woman in the film, Snipes' ex-wife, is painted rather badly, despite the fact that Snipes' character is way out of line with her.

But there are those wonderful little character turns, from Dan Hedaya as Snipes' other partner to Valerie Perrine as Hopper's ex-wife to Seymour Cassel as a counterfeit fence, and the earnest performance of Snipes himself. Best of all, there's Hopper, all smooth charm and utterly self-involved.

They all take their underwritten roles and try to turn them into something more. Unfortunately, it's not enough to save this second-rate material.

"Boiling Point" is rated R for violence, profanity and vulgarity.