I’m feeling a bit angry this week that there’s a sequel to a flick that I utterly detested. (See the remake of "Clash of the Titans" and it’s now needless sequel "Wrath of the Titans!") So I’m going with an outing about bitter angry man fresh from prison looking to wreak a little havoc – welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick! The pick of choice this week is from the brilliant mind of underappreciated writer/director George Armitage. A funny, nasty and all around engaging little nugget complete with vicious violence, dead Hare Krishnas and home cooked pork chops. We’re talking about the unforgettable 1990 Alec Baldwin starring flick..."Miami Blues."
Frederick Frenger, Jr. (aka Junior) is a man fresh out of prison and he’s looking for trouble. A deranged and dangerous psychopath, he begins his first moments out by both stealing airport luggage and then breaking the finger of a local Hare Krishna preaching the word of the almighty. He then heads off to a hotel and hooks up with prostitute Susie, a local student at community college who ends up romantically involved with the secretly criminal Junior. With cops are hot on his tail when the aforementioned Hare Krishna dies of shock, Junior finds himself face to face with lead cop Sgt. Hoke Moseley, who suspects the seemingly innocent ex-con. Junior being ever evil beats Hoke to the punch by finding him, assaulting him and then stealing his badge and gun. (Not to mention his teeth!) With a criminal now a cop the real fun begins.
The above may read a bit wordy, but there’s a real genius in the story and storytelling by writer/director George Armitage here. Featuring moments of visceral violence, wry comedy and even decent drama, "Miami Blues" is a kind of bold and beautiful film they don’t make anymore. Far beyond the politically correct cardboard cut out characters of late, his lead man in the form of a young Alec Baldwin is both charismatic and caustic – a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. The result is a person the audience both loves and hates and it’s a breath of fresh air. Plus partnering him with a naïve prostitute with a good heart played by making-it-look-easy actress Jennifer Jason Leigh is a match that fuels the films fire more, with Baldwin’s Junior both enamored and annoyed by her small town, white picket fence vibe.
But the topper in this cool character cake has to be ever-underused actor Fred Ward as the surly Hoke ‘Pork Chop’ Moseley. His smart yet bumbling detective is the perfect foil to Baldwin’s insane act. Filled with zesty one-liners (“the beer’s gone, I’m gone!”), horrible hygiene, old age and a string of bad luck that would make a normal man end it all, Moseley would be the perfect detective if he weren’t such a mess.
Mix all this in a movie blender (along with some great music and even comical bits to boot!) and you’ve got a fantastic film that holds up. Armitage tried to resurrect the same somber tone with John Cusack in "Grosse Pointe Blank" years later, but it felt a little too stylistically safe. There’s something dangerous about "Miami Blues" that is hard to put a finger on and in that mire of confusion is where its dark genius lies. Sharp, deadly and quick witted at every turn, "Miami Blues" is the kind of unpredictable work that both keeps a movie lover jazzed and spells trouble for the studio status quo - cinema beyond the norm is a rare gem indeed.
Title: "Miami Blues"
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Fred Ward, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Director: George Armitage
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Company: Orion Pictures