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Robert Altman's jazz-scored film explores themes of love, crime, race, and politics in 1930s Kansas City. When Blondie O'Hara's husband, a petty thief, is captured by Seldom Seen and held at the Hey Hey Club, she launches a desperate plan to release him. She kidnaps the wife of a powerful local politician in an attempt to blackmail him into using his connections to free Johnny. Despite this being election time, he risks exposure by putting the political machine into action to free Johnny and thereby save his wife. Mrs. Stilton, meanwhile, has befriended Blondie and is impressed by her love and devotion to Johnny, especially in contrast to her own loveless marriage. Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
When Governor Guy Park is telephoned about the kidnapping, he suggests notifying the state police. Missouri has no state police (only Highway Patrol). See more »
He's got a lot of customers.
Those aren't customers, those are voters. They ship 'em from all over the state. Each of 'em vote ten, twelve times. Used to get their names outta the cemetary, but I don't even think they bother anymore.
[to crowd of men]
You'll be exercising your God-given right to vote. However, you'll be voting the way I tell you to vote, and as many times as I tell you. That understood? Understood? Shut up!
Democrats do that?
Democrats? They're what they're paid to be. This is ...
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The music is superb. The movie is so-so. The period sets are perfect and its just like being back in KC during the infamous Pendergast era. Altman made this movie as a paean to his hometown and the music that came out of it. One cannot divorce the music from the movie. Either you are a jazz fan or you're not. If you're not, you won't like this movie. Its that simple. If you are, you are really in for a treat. The film features all of the "new" stars in jazz from the mid-90's (James Carter and Craig Handy on saxes, Mark Whitfield on guitar, Geri Allen and Cyrus Chestnut on piano....the list goes on and on. They all play the legends of jazz that came out of Kansas City-people like Count Basie, Joe Williams, Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins. A veritable treat for the in-the-know jazz fan but probably a bore for anyone else. Altman stays on the music longer than most directors would because this is a film about the music as much as it is about the plot.
And here's the real irony. Movie buffs will say they wished Altman wouldn't have devoted so much time to the music and jazz buffs will say they wished Altman would have done away with the ridiculous, annoying plot and grating performance by Jennifer Jason Leigh and focused entirely on the music. How to please everyone? The end result is uneven but there's enough here to keep all parties interested.
If any actor should be singled out, it should be Harry Belafonte. His turn as the underworld kingpin, Seldom Seen, is fantastic. He speaks in a low, gruff rasp but his dialogue is truly worth the effort to understand. When he goes off on the Marcus Garvey speech, its worth the price of admission. Of course, it helps to know who Marcus Garvey was. Jazz fans (and reggae fans, too) will get it. After all, this is a movie for them/us.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful.
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