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— W.C.U.N — Pittsburgh!!

MIAMI BLUES (1990) Dir. George Armitage. Written by George Armitage based on a Novel by Charles Willeford. Starring: Alec Baldwin, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Fred Ward, Nora Dunn, Paul Gleason Jack Napier, Obba Babatunde, and Shirley Stoler.

 Real badge. Real gun. Fake cop.

1990 was a big year for Baldwin. With The Hunt for Red October and Miami Blues both released, he was on his way to becoming a household name, but still a year out from his romance with Kim Basinger and a couple of years out from his legendary performance in Glengarry Glen Ross. While The Hunt for Red October is well remembered, however, Miami Blues seems to have disappeared completely from the radar of most movie lovers and it's an unfortunate state of affairs because there is a trio of fine performances in this film from actors consistently overlooked for how damn good they can be. The story of a relentless conman, Frederick J. Frenger's all-you-can-take buffet approach to Miami is one of Baldwin's all-time best performances, equal parts charming, chilling, and funny. No less awesome is Fred Ward and his false teeth as Sgt. Hoke Mosely, the low-life Homicide detective on his trail for the murder of a Hare Krishna at the airport in the film's opening scene. Jennifer Jason Leigh as the dimwitted escort Pepper nee Susie from Okeechobee with nothing but a bank CD and some mean vinegar pie baking skills to aid her in the big bad world is a heart and scene stealer. Brandishing an accent and doe-eyed dumbness that is terrifyingly accurate to the region and character Susie is not only one of my favorite Leigh performances, but one of the best hooker with a heart of gold characters in cinema. The film's plot and characters are strung together by a series of escalating cons and crimes, so even if you don't connect to the relationship between Baldwin and Leigh or Mosely's pursuit (how can you not?!), you never get a chance to get bored because Baldwin is sprinting from one crazy scam to the next. While ostensibly a bit of a wacky crime film there's a real vicious streak to it and by the end, surprisingly, a good deal of heart, mostly due to Leigh's performance and her relationship with Ward's Mosley. It's not going to change your life, but Miami Blues will at least teach you not to break the fingers of Hare Krishna's no matter how much you want to and that Jennifer Jason Leigh is and always will be the best thing about any movie she's in. Of note to cult film fans, Shirley Stoler (Honeymoon Killers and Three O' Clock High) makes a badass cameo in the last act that proves she's one of the toughest and scariest women in film.    

 

 

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