Sunday, October 14, 2018

Miami Blues

Movie Name: Miami Blues
Year of Release: 1990
Director: George Armitage
Starring: Alec Baldwin, Fred Ward, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Nora Dunn, Charles Napier, Obba Babatunde, Edward Saxon, Paul Gleason, Shirley Stoler
Genre: Crime, Drama, Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
"Miami Blues" was a film originally envisioned to be directed by celebrated film maker Jonathan Demme, who decided to entrust this film to his collaborator George Armitage, a director who had made his mark in the 70s, and hadn't tackled any projects since then. The crew of this film is still largely comprised of Jonathan Demme's accomplices, from cinematographer Tak Fujimoto, to the producers, editor (Craig McKay) and much of the supporting cast (including Charles Napier and Obba Babatunde for instance). The film follows the story of dangerous criminal Fred Frenger Jr., who gets out of prison, and heads off to Miami. While there he immediately gets into trouble, first while leaving the airport, when he attacks a member of the Hare Krishna, followed by a series of misdemeanors. He gets acquainted with the pretty and vulnerable student/prostitute Susie Waggoner, and they're soon making plans to live together. His erratic and dangerous behavior is soon being tracked by veteran police officer Hoke Moseley. His tracking skills uncover some of the things Junior has been doing, who in turn shows up at the detective's home, attacking him and in the process, taking his badge, gun and dentures. He suddenly starts busting criminals, mostly so he can get the loot in the process, causing distress to Moseley, while the seriousness of crimes gets progressively more intense.
"Miami Blues" is a film that while retaining the grittiness of George Armitage's films from the 70s, it also blends the style with what Jonathan Demme had been doing in the 80s. The film is almost a companion piece to "Something Wild", but with reversed roles. Alec Baldwin, then riding the start of his career, right after having great roles in Jonathan Demme's "Married to the Mob", Mike Nichols' "Working Girl", Oliver Stone's "Talk Radio" and Tim Burton's "Beetlejuice", creates a memorable character, equally vulnerable, menacing and seductive. Jennifer Jason Leigh is equally fantastic, creating a character that is naive, but also resilient and sweet. It's a film that walks an interesting line between being comedic, violent, sexy and dramatic. The director manages to tie all these elements somewhat coherently, even if it's not as engaging as Jonathan Demme's "Something Wild". Some of the characters are thinly characterized, and quickly abandoned, but it's nonetheless an interesting film from a director and creative team always worth revisiting.