Miami Blues (1990)
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Anyway, there is some violence, some 'dark' comedy (e.g. Ravindra!), etc., but overall, I think this movie was very entertaining and a nice offbeat surprise with some great performances and lines. Chalk it up under one of my 'Top Ten Favorites That Not Everybody Saw'.
The character isn't so much fun. He's a happy-go-lucky psycho just sprung from prison and landed in Miami, where he brushes off a Hare Krishna acolyte in the airport by breaking his finger (the poor guy dies of shock). At his hotel he orders up a hooker (Jennifer Jason Leigh); they hit it off and pair up, mainly because `Princess Not-So-Bright' has trouble with independent thought. Then Baldwin is off and running through Dade and Broward Counties, stealing wallets and identities, staging impromptu holdups, and running giddily amok.
Tired old cop Fred Ward picks up his scent, and even shares a meal of many brews and Leigh's pork chops with the couple. But Baldwin turns the tables and ambushes Ward in his ratty old residential hotel, putting him in the hospital. The upside is that now Baldwin's got a new identity Ward's with a gun and a badge to prove it. Flamboyant and reckless, he continues his felonious spree like an overgrown kid playing cops and robbers. But he can't keep it up forever, not even in the anything-goes milieu of South Beach....
Miami Blues is drawn from a crime novel by Charles Willeford, who wrote (he died before the picture was adapted) in the playful, inventive Elmore Leonard vein. There's not much plot, just enough to hold together the characters, which it's about (and the movie's full of quirky characters, memorably including Shirley Stoller). But, though Ward gets top billing and Leigh flashes her credentials as a graduate of the Meryl Streep Academy of Accents, it's Baldwin's movie. If you're fond of ham, you're in for a feast.
This film is a hidden gem. See this movie for Alec Baldwin and the crazy character he plays, because it's a role you won't soon forget!
The three main characters in here are all low-life scumbags but interesting and definitely fun to watch. Alec Baldwin plays a psycho thug and exhibits a good flair for comedy, which he has pursed several times in movies after this one. He's also a legitimately tough guy, or at least sounds like one. Jennifer Jason Leigh, perhaps the all-time female sleazoid in movies, is a lame-brained prostitute. I was very impressed with her southern accent.
Fred Ward is a strange cop in pursuit, one who has problems with his false teeth! Hey, this IS kind of an odd crime movie.
Despite the above, the violence in here can get rough with a few unpredictable happenings that will get your attention. There's also a good soundtrack, capped off at the end by Norman Greenbaum's classic "Spirit In The Sky."
Excellent performances by Baldwin and Ward, but especially Jennifer Jason Leigh. If this had been recognized as a regular 'REAL' motion picture, she might have been nominated for an Oscar. Absolutely one of her best performances.
Kudos all around.
But this ain't no comedy.
And, on a side note, I believe Shirley Stoler was at one time an actress known as Shirley Kirkpatrick.
After being released from a California prison, Frederick J Frenger Jr. (Alec Baldwin) flies to Miami airport where he steals a suitcase and gets hassled by a Hare Krishna devotee before casually breaking one of the guy's fingers in retaliation. Unfortunately, his victim dies of shock and this triggers a police investigation.
Frenger, who prefers to be known as Junior, checks into a hotel and orders a hooker. The simple-minded Susie Waggoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) soon joins him and they quickly begin a romantic relationship. Susie who's working her way through college, wants to settle down to a conventional lifestyle and so when she and Junior set up house together, she happily spends her time cooking for him and keeping the place clean. She's unaware that he's an habitual thief and that during his time in Miami; he's been carrying on business as usual.
Detective Sergeant Hoke Moseley (Fred Ward), the veteran cop who's investigating the killing at the airport, comes to Junior and Susie's place because he says that Junior has been identified as a possible witness. The unkempt detective chats affably to the couple and shares a meal with them during which he consumes numerous cans of beer and clearly becomes convinced that Junior is an ex-con and probably the killer he's pursuing. After finishing his meal and inviting Junior to a line-up at the police station, he leaves.
Incensed by Moseley's visit, Junior goes to the detective's hotel room and brutally attacks the cop before stealing his gun, badge and false teeth. This gives him the opportunity to go on another stealing rampage during which he enjoys posing as a cop and using every advantage it gives him to relieve various people of their money and possessions. The assault on Moseley led to him being hospitalised but after being discharged, this previously laid-back cop becomes extremely determined to hunt Junior down and bring him to justice.
This movie's run-of-the-mill plot is illuminated by its characters and Alec Baldwin gives a particularly energetic performance as the violent sociopath who's also an inveterate thief and a pathological liar. Deception also features strongly in his modus operandi as he arrives in Miami under an assumed identity, indulges in a sham version of suburban life and masquerades as a cop.
Jennifer Jason Leigh makes the naïve Susie a sympathetic character and Fred Ward is great as the sleazy, unshaven and cynical cop who's really struggling to cope but remains good natured despite being humiliated by Junior, ridiculed by his colleagues and having personal problems with his false teeth, alimony and indigestion. These characters' flaws emphasise their humanity and provide an effective counterpoint to the callous ruthlessness of Junior in what ultimately proves to be a very engaging crime thriller.
Alec Baldwin plays psychopathic hoodlum "Junior" Frenger, who arrives in Miami intending to "start over", or in his case simply move on to a new assortment of victims. (He begins by messing up a Hare Krishna in an airport.) He hooks up with Susie Waggoner, a sweet, simple minded hooker played by the endearing Jennifer Jason Leigh. A tough homicide detective, Hoke Moseley (Fred Ward, good as always) follows his trail, but gets victimized himself when Junior gets the drop on him, and steals Hokes' gun, badge, and false teeth. Junior then has the time of his life pretending to be a cop, while entering into a domestic situation with Susie.
"Miami Blues" does get fairly violent sometimes, but if this sort of thing doesn't bother you, you can have a good time with this story and these players. It's got a hip soundtrack including a score by Gary Chang (this viewer loves the use of Norman Greenbaums' "Spirit in the Sky"). Among the supporting actors are Nora Dunn of 'Saturday Night Live' & "Three Kings", Demme regular Charles Napier ("The Blues Brothers", "The Silence of the Lambs"), Obba Babatunde, and Jose Perez; cameos range from Martine Beswicke ("Prehistoric Women") to Paul Gleason ("The Breakfast Club") to Shirley Stoler ("The Honeymoon Killers").
Highly recommended to fans of cult cinema.
In "Miami Blues" the Belmondo part is played by Alec Baldwin, a guy fresh out of prison who has chosen a life of wilful disobedience. His girl friend (who really ought not to be in college) is a part-time hooker with aspirations that are utterly bourgeois. Jennifer Jason Lee wants to live with her husband and babies in a house with a white picket fence. Fred Ward, looking grizzled and great, is a homicide detective whom Baldwin clobbers and whose identity he steals.
I don't know why certain things happen. For instance, I have no idea how or why Baldwin manages to dig up Ward's home address, then goes there and beats hell out of him, and winds up stealing his false teeth, handcuffs and other cop accoutrements. What was THAT all about? I'll give one more example. Baldwin is in a convenience store and stumbles on an armed robbery. "I'm the police! Drop that gun and walk out of here!" he shouts -- and threatens the armed robber with a jar of spaghetti sauce.
See, in an existentialist movie like this, the characters don't really need to have motives. They do whatever they feel like doing.
There IS continuity though, even if in its details the movie makes very little sense. The characters are consistent, and there is a rudimentary plot, engaging and amusing without being in any way memorable.
I did enjoy the movie though, even the second time around, or maybe even MORE the second time around, since I'd learned not to expect an abundance of logic in the narrative.
The acting of the three principles is also admirable. Alec Baldwin had just appeared in "The Hunt for Red October," in which he struck me as not much more than a handsome leading man. Here, he's a different character entirely. Watch him as he struts down the street, arms swinging jauntily, grinning through pain, happily throwing off non sequiturs in dramatic situations. ("Do you own a suede coat?" he asks a criminal before murdering him.) Lee is more than childlike. She's positively childish with her overflowing emotions. I loved Fred Ward in this. He's full of quirks and rarely seems to be taking the role seriously. Instead of soaking his precious false teeth in -- what is that stuff, Polydent? -- he soaks them overnight in a glass of left-over booze.
Interesting exercise in style and acting.
Baldwin isn't convincing as the bad boy, Jennifer Jason Leigh is pretty good, and Fred Ward deserved better than this hokum. The biggest problem I had with the film is it was trying to be two things, a comedy and a thriller. Trouble is it wasn't remotely thrilling or funny.
Alec Baldwin does great work as Freddy Frenger, sociopath and ex-con, who immediately after his release from prison goes right back to beating people up and robbing them. Ward may have gotten top billing but Baldwin gets most of the screen time and dominates the movie. He first hires and then moves in with a dumb but innocent prostitute Susie Waggoner played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. Leigh, Baldwin and Ward all do excellent work and the movie looks like it was as much fun to make as it is to watch. Leigh's prostitute is easily the most sympathetic character of the bunch and what happens to her is quite frankly a little heart breaking. She easily deserves better, and given the way the universe works that pretty much guarantees that she's not going to get it.
Speaking of Waggoner and Frenger a lot of the reviewers here are misinterpreting the nature of their relationship. They both really do want that house with the yard and the white picket fence, and they really do love each other. When Leigh's Waggoner, normally an excellent cook, deliberately ruins a vinegar pie she's cooking for desert Frenger forces himself to down every forkful while praising her culinary skills.
I've seen this film a couple of times and still am not 100% sure what it wants to be, a comedy, a violent crime thriller or a mix of both. A mix of both would seem to be the answer but the two don't seem integrated only separate throughout the film. What the film comes across as, is the story of two men, both of whom have their own humorous touches and quirks that make the story work quite well.
The story is quite violent and is best viewed as a crime thriller that happens to have dark humour through it. While the plot seems to lack a real obvious direction it is the characters that take the film along. Frenger is violent and unhinged and played very well by a crazy looking Baldwin. Moseley is a stronger character whom I would have liked to have seen more of in the film - he is cheap, dirty and very interesting. Ward fits him like a glove and plays the character well. The third strong in the bow is rather sympathetic and is well done by Leigh who delivers an interesting character.
Overall this is a strange hybrid but it works well. It has all the traits of a pulp thriller with dark comedy, even if the plot is less substantial than I'd expected it to be. Overall this is an underrated little film that is well worth keeping an eye out for, if only for it's characters and dark humorous violence.
The script's story is weak for other reasons as well. We never learn what motivates Junior. Why does he find it necessary to rob from robbers? With a runtime of just 97 minutes the film could have filled us in a little on some of Junior's back-story. Further, toward the film's end, there is ample opportunity for the cops to zero in on Junior. But they don't. And that makes the film not very true to life. I also question why the lead detective, a rather hapless guy named Hoke Moseley (Fred Ward) feels compelled to have dinner and engage in social chitchat with Susie and Junior.
A couple of plot sequences were hard for me to watch because of the graphic violence. But in general, this film is fairly tame and low-key. Production design is fine, and color cinematography is competent. I liked the music, which included "Spirit In The Sky".
Despite a weak script, "Miami Blues" is worth watching once, mostly for the really fine performances of Alec Baldwin and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Alec Baldwin plays Frederick J. Frenger Jr an ex con who we first meet as he flies into Miami. We know he isn't nice when he breaks the finger of a Hare Krishna devotee as he leaves the airport, unknown to him this causes the Krisna to go into shock and die. He then goes to a hotel where, being the classy gent he is, he orders a prostitute from the manager.
Susue, the prostitute, played by the always excellent Jennifer Jason Leigh, doesn't appear to be too bright although she claims she is doing it to pay her way though college. They clearly hit it off fairly quickly as not long after meeting they are engaged and Susie has retired from prostitution; Junior however has not retired from his life of crime.
The killing of the Krishna is investigated by a rather unusual homicide detective, he seems a bit of a loner and keeps forgetting to put his false teeth back in. He soon finds Junior but doesn't have the evidence to arrest him so instead stays for dinner and ends up exchanging recipes with Susie.
Junior decides to pay Sgt. Moseley a visit and steals his gun, handcuffs and badge which he then uses to assist him when he takes the ill-gotten money of various criminals. He also takes Moseley's false teeth.
The rest of film follows Sgt. Moseley as he attempts to retrieve his badge and teeth and bring Junior to justice.
Over all this film is definitely worth watching if you have the chance and if you in the unlikely event that don't like it it is only ninety minutes long so you won't have wasted much time.