I Saw A Film!

Alec Baldwin has spent the last couple of decades knocking out great comic work (especially on 30Rock and Saturday Night Live), and voice acting for comic animation. So accomplished at this he is I had almost forgotten his youthful forays into thrillers and other dramatic efforts.

Granted Miami Blues isn’t entirely a serious thriller, there are quite a few moments of “you can’t make this up” silliness that punctuate the late 80s chic story of a youthful grifter who hits on a great angle once he mugs a world weary cop played by a growling Fred Ward. Though our young protagonist takes many ill-advised risks with himself, Baldwin maintains that icy blue-eyed gleam that makes you accept that he’s just entirely nuts. He also witnesses more crime in a day than most people out looking for crime. His apparent MO, a conceit he conflates to his sweetie-pie hook-up, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh (squeezing every last vowel into a slack-mouthed, fake-ass southern charm*) is to only attack bad-guys. Leigh buys it because she wants to, the way so many people get taken for a ride by con-artists, and because he keeps saying the bullshit a grifter is going to say to maintain his ruse. A recent article about why we, as people, get taken by so many ruses postulates that it’s because we’re naturally social creatures and our default setting is actually trust. It takes effort to push us away from the setting that allows us to build amazing social institutions that let us create everything from cities to arts to these silly movies. Put another way, Richard Dawkins kind of more bluntly pointed out, that we don’t eat our neighbors and take their resources because in the end we get much better benefits working together. So when we get a character like Frederick J. Frenger Jr. he is not only shocking to our sensibilities, able to lure the adorable Jennifer Jason Leigh’s sweet young thang, and outrun Fred Ward’s toothless nearly disinterested cop, he is hilarious, even when being grievously injured.

Ward as the cop finally wakes up from his milking the mugging when he realizes his badge and gun are being used on the street, literally throwing off the neck brace. Fred Ward is great in this film. Despite his somewhat embarrassing composure and lack of customary Dirty Harry heroics (he more channels a variation of Columbo) he realizes who his quarry is early on, and easily sidles into the friendliness of Leigh’s Susan. And while sloppy in his method, this particular quarry requires some heavy hitting.

This is a fun film for seeing how three decades have changed our senses of beauty and on screen antics, as well as the moments that kind of push the boundaries of our expectations. Right off the bat a kind of Hari Krishna gets in Baldwin’s face and is violently assaulted as a kind of pick-up note to Frederick’s persona. The Krishna actually dies, though it wasn’t the intention, and this leads the careless cops onto the trail. Don’t kill the Krishna people, at least not at the airport! Of course, now that we’ve all been trained in the fine arts of Dexter style grotesque murder, and the correct way to kidnap people (all of it way more effort than most of us would care to undertake, I’m sure) few of us would make the mistakes common in this larking film!

A fun film for free – On Prime. Go get it.

*I keep wondering when people are going to be offended by improperly appropriated accents. While it is probably the oldest part of the acting profession, putting on another’s voice, I feel certain that accent has to be cultural possession and we just haven’t yet seen a strong enough objection voiced because most of the folks with the rural accents don’t have the power to really make a stink about it. Should this be a valid complaint? Leigh’s sweet southern belle is also referred to as “not so bright” by Nora Dunn’s cop character. This is a problem–many folks have been raised to imagine the accent marks lack of mental acuity. For a long time in the south, people actually went to school to learn not to speak “dumb”!

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