Besides an absurd reliance on flip and pan transitions, director Armitage does an often excellent job directing Miami Blues. His script–adapting a novel, so who knows how much is his fault–is a different story. Blues is the story of a charismatic psychopath (Alec Baldwin) fresh from prison who wrecks havoc in the Miami area. The Blues in the title must be for Fred Ward, who plays the unlucky cop who’s trailing him.
Armitage, Baldwin and Ward all play Blues like half a comedy. Ward does the joke well, but Baldwin’s disastrous at it. His performance as a psychopath is so strong, it kills all the humor possibilities. Or maybe Armitage is just an incompetent director and didn’t mean to direct the scenes funny. Though that explanation seems unlikely, especially since the film opens and closes on a smile.
In this strange mix is Jennifer Jason Leigh. While Ward’s good and Baldwin’s problematic (but technically good), Leigh is astoundingly great as the dimwitted hooker who falls for Baldwin. Leigh’s so good, she makes Blues worth a viewing. Had Armitage followed Leigh (or Ward) instead of Baldwin, the film would have been a lot better.
The rest of the supporting cast–no one else has much screen time–is excellent. Nora Dunn and Charles Napier play Ward’s colleagues, Bobo Lewis is great as Baldwin’s landlord and Paul Gleason has a little part.
While Armitage’s best directorial moments come early–and lessen the disappointment of the middling script–Leigh never disappoints.
Directed by George Armitage; screenplay by Armitage, based on the novel by Charles Willeford; director of photography, Tak Fujimoto; edited by Craig McKay; music by Gary Chang; production designer, Maher Ahmad; produced by Jonathan Demme and Gary Goetzman; released by Orion Pictures.
Starring Alec Baldwin (Junior), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Pepper), Fred Ward (Sgt. Hoke Moseley), Nora Dunn (Ellita Sanchez), Charles Napier (Sgt. Bill Henderson), Shirley Stoler (Edie Wulgemuth), Bobo Lewis (Edna Damrosch), Obba Babatundé (Blink Willie), Gary Howard Klar (Head Bookie), José Pérez (Pablo) and Paul Gleason (Sgt. Frank Lackley).
Posted in 1990, Color, Crime, Drama, English, Orion Pictures, Romance, Thriller, USA
Tagged Alec Baldwin, Bobo Lewis, Charles Napier, Charles Willeford, Craig McKay, Fred Ward, Gary Chang, Gary Goetzman, Gary Howard Klar, George Armitage, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jonathan Demme, José Pérez, Maher Ahmad, Nora Dunn, Obba Babatundé, Paul Gleason, Shirley Stoler, Tak Fujimoto
Having seen Bill Murray capital-a act for so long–it’s been ten years now, hasn’t it?–seeing him do Quick Change is a little disconcerting. At times, he’s so mellow, he almost isn’t there. I’ve seen Quick Change five or six times–the first being in the theater at the age of eleven–so I can’t remember if there are any surprises in it. The first act (if Quick Change has acts) hinges on a surprise for the characters, but I can’t tell if the audience is supposed to be fooled. I doubt it. It plays too close to the middle though, allowing for either read, when one or the other would firm Quick Change up a little.
Following the initial bank robbery sequence, which is excellent, mostly because Bob Elliot is so funny–when Bill Murray’s in the clown make-up, he comes his closest to that capital-a acting he likes so much nowadays–Quick Change devolves into a sequences of vignettes with shitty New Yorkers. It’s kind of like After Hours, kind of not (it’s obvious the film’s makers are aware of After Hours though, because Quick Change lifts a comedy beat–I can’t remember where–directly from that film). These vignettes are amusing, occasionally funny, and well acted. Except, at the same time, there’s the side-story with Jason Robards as the police chief on the robbers’ tail, and the romance between Bill Murray and Geena Davis. Davis is fine in most of the film, but during the romance scenes, she’s not and Murray’s better in those scenes than most of the others. Maybe because her character reacts so ludicrously to everything. Quick Change establishes a side reality for itself–one where situations prime for sardonic comment present continuously themselves–so it’s hard to take Davis’s character’s concerns seriously.
Randy Quaid is funny as the third robber, being the center of the film’s funniest sequence (along with Tony Shalhoub), but he really doesn’t do anything in the film except wait around to either say something stupid or do something stupid. The supporting cast is perfect, with Stanley Tucci and Kurtwood Smith standing out… but there’s something missing. Bill Murray and Howard Franklin’s direction is somehow funnier than Murray’s performance, which is an uncommon equation. The film’s a pleasant, occasionally really funny ninety minutes–but its slightness really cuts it down.
Directed by Howard Franklin and Bill Murray; screenplay by Franklin, based on the book by Jay Cronley; director of photography, Michael Chapman; edited by Alan Heim; music by Randy Edelman; produced by Robert Greenhut and Murray; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Bill Murray (Grimm), Geena Davis (Phyllis), Randy Quaid (Loomis), Jason Robards (Rotzinger), Bob Elliot (Bank Guard), Philip Bosco (Bus Driver), Phil Hartman (Hal Edison), Kathryn Goody (Mrs. Edison), Tony Shalhoub (Cab Driver), Stanley Tucci (Johnny), Victor Argo (Skelton), Gary Howard Klar (Mario), Kurtwood Smith (Russ Crane), Susannah Bianci (Mrs. Russ Crane) and Jamey Sheridan (Mugger).
Posted in 1990, Color, Comedy, Crime, English, USA, Warner Bros.
Tagged Alan Heim, Bill Murray, Bob Elliot, Gary Howard Klar, Geena Davis, Howard Franklin, Jamey Sheridan, Jason Robards, Jay Cronley, Kathryn Goody, Kurtwood Smith, Michael Chapman, Phil Hartman, Philip Bosco, Randy Edelman, Randy Quaid, Robert Greenhut, Stanley Tucci, Susannah Bianci, Tony Shalhoub, Victor Argo