Friday, 23 May 2014

Review - Miami Blues (1990 - Dir. George Armitage)

I put Jennifer Jason Leigh into the FA Cup of Actors hoping that Last Exit to Brooklyn would miraculously pop up as her random entry in her first round battle against Jamel Debbouze (Outside the Law reached the giddy heights of 7/10). But no, Miami Blues is her chosen film, something that I'd never heard of. Starring Alec Baldwin, its not the type of thing that I'd normally watch. (Plus Alec isn't even my favourite of the Baldwin brothers. And no, it's not Daniel, William, Stephen, or erm... Mike, either. My favourite would have to be Adam Baldwin from Serenity and Chuck. Shame he's not related.) 

Fred Frenger, Jr. (referred to as Junior, a bit like Junior Giscombe) has just got out of prison and decides to go on a one-man crime spree. As a twist he tends to steal from other naughty people. He meets a prostitute called Susan - as occasionally happens - and they fall in love. (Funnily enough the prostitute happens to be Jennifer Jason Leigh, who despite always getting her top off at the drop of a hat, still comes across as a quality actress.) Susan knows nothing of Junior's slightly dubious activities and dreams of a perfect family life. Things are not all rosy though, Junior is being chased down by jaded grizzled cop, Sgt. Hoke Moseley, (Fred Ward of Tremors fame) a man who has not only got a brilliant name, but also a set of false choppers. (Sadly, not a collection of Vindec High Risers.)

As you may have guessed from the inclusion of false teeth Miami Blues has a certain level of endearing quirkiness to it that I wasn't expecting from an Alec Baldwin film. Junior commits a murder early on in the proceedings, but it's not the usual kind of murder, I'm not even sure if it's a murder at all: he kills a Hare Krishna by bending his fingers back. Now, I know that this violent act may cause some slight soreness, but death is maybe taking it a tad too far. The quirkiness doesn't end there. Sgt. Moseley and Susan meet in a supermarket and she gives him a recipe for Vinegar Pie. And that isn't even a savoury pie, it's sweet. For a recipe of this disgusting sounding dessert, click here. It looks rank.

As previously stated Alec isn't my favourite Baldwin and his performance here does nothing to greatly improve things. Given that, he actually does quite a good job of switching between a fellow who yearns for a normal family life and a complete finger-bending psychopath. But there's one scene in particular that is cringe worthy. He is lying on his bed pretending to be different shady characters. It looks like something that he just started doing for a laugh and the director got the camera rolling. Perfect fodder for outtakes. Not for the proper film. (And it's high time I started including some screen shots from the film. I'll put in a few to catch up.)

Jennifer Jason Leigh meanwhile does a great job. She plays it in an ambiguous fashion that can be read as Susan just being extremely naive, or that she knows about Juniors dodgy ways but puts it to the back of her mind so that she can pursue her dream of a happy family life. As for Fred Ward, he's as watchable as ever and should probably have a place in a future FA Cup of Actors.

Despite the occasionally violent scene (a machete incident is particularly noteworthy) Miami Blues feels pretty light and fluffy. It's enjoyable enough and better than I was expecting, but it's no classic. Average is the best that I can say. (Although when I'm watching some films, I dream of seeing something average.)

(The mathematically able amongst you may have worked out that Jennifer Jason Leigh is out and rank outsider, Jamel Debbouze, charges through into the second round. He could be one to watch, that sneaky little tinker.)

If you like this you could also try:
Last Exit to Brooklyn, Something Wild.

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