Miami Blues (1990) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The basic idea is simple. Sociopath gets out of prison. Steals a badge. Poses as a cop. Steals from crooks. Gets caught.

The bitch is in the tone. Miami Blues is an offbeat, quirky, hipper-than-thou crime thriller with macabre elements. This film sort of played the John the Baptist role for Pulp Fiction. It wasn't the coming of Tarantino, but it showed what might be ahead if everyday life were to be juxtaposed with darkly comic and graphic violence.


Jennifer Jason Leigh shows her breasts at various times during the film, including clear shots in good light

At one point the sociopath is mangled and bleeding after a major altercation in a convenience store, but before he leaves he asks the clerk, "Where's the whipping cream?"

That c-store incident will serve to give you a good idea of the world inhabited by this film, so I'll expand it a bit. A loser holds up the store with a gun. The sociopath just happens to be in the store as a customer, sees the robbery about to happen, and threatens the gunman by menacingly brandishing a jar of spaghetti sauce. (??!!) The clerk is armed as well. Bullets start flying everywhere. Windows are shattering. Sauce is splattering. The would-be robber flees, gets in his pick-up and the situation seems to be resolved - until the robber comes back by driving his pick-up through the store's front door, pinning the sociopath under the shattered glass and metal.

The most interesting complications along the way are:

  • The sociopath falls in love, at least to the degree that he is capable. He picks up a simple-minded underage hooker (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and ends up setting up house with her. She is so happy with the turn of events that she won't or can't see the worst elements of his personality.

  • Fred Ward plays the cop who is tracking down the sociopath. He is not at all stupid on the investigative side, but is only marginally capable of the mental toughness necessary for police work, and he is generally incompetent in every other element of life. Sloppy and unathletic, he's like a low-rent bachelor version of Inspector Colombo. Since he works with real criminals instead of genteel rich folks, this version of Colombo gets beaten up pretty regularly.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen letterboxed version and full frame version. Skip the letterboxed version. It is exactly the same as the other, except hard-matted with black bars on the top and bottom.

Alec Baldwin plays the sociopath. This role is pretty much his specialty now, but he was just testing it out back in 1990. Jennifer Jason Leigh plays the vulnerable naf, and that's her own specialty. This is just her character from Ridgemont High, minus a few more IQ points. Fred Ward checks in as the cynical, unsightly slob of a cop who can solve crimes, but can't seem to bring his suspects in.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Roger Ebert 2/4.

The People Vote ...

  • It grossed about $10 million
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C. It's an early predecessor to Pulp Fiction, filled with everyday life and grisly violence in comic juxtaposition. It's an energetic and sometimes entertaining exploitation film, but is generally pointless, and doesn't have Tarantino's flair.

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