30Hz Underrated Thrillers: “Cocaine Noir” Vol. 2: The B-Sides
originally published on rupertpupkinspeaks.com
After posting my first list of “Cocaine Noir” titles, I had a few requests for more underheralded thrillers from the 80’s and early 90’s. I threw together another quick lists of favorites that didn’t quite make the original cut – the Cocaine Noir B-Sides. These may not be quite as good as the original six, but they’ll deliver high that’s almost as satisfying.
Miami Blues (1990)
“The first thing they shoulda told you at your hooker classes is that you shouldn’t ask the client so many fucking personal questions.”
Miami Blues doesn’t care about character “likability” or “narrative drive.” What it cares about is giving Alec Baldwin a bad 90’s haircut and a playground for crazy. Baldwin plays Frederick Frenger, Jr. Newly released from prison, Junior kills a Hare Krishna by breaking his finger off. No explanation necessary, right? Clearly he’s a bad mutha if he can kill a guy by breaking his finger off. He promptly checks into a hotel and falls in love-ish with a prostitute/college student with the heart of a cat lady (Jennifer Jason Leigh). When Sgt. Hoke Mosely (Fred Ward clad in a cacophonous array of floral Hawaiian prints) comes to ask him a few questions, Junior takes copious notes about the detective’s procedure. He then beats up Sgt. Mosely, steals his badge and goes on a crime spree, all the while pretending to be a cop. The sociopathic Robin Hood act carries him only so far before the Sgt. Mosely tracks him down and the altruistic hooker/cat lady grows suspicious of his activities outside their new abode.
With all the crazy headlines of individual lunatics coming out of Florida, Miami Blues feeds right into the theory that Floridians are batshit crazy.
Exhibit A: Junior.
Exhibit B: Everyone that believes Junior’s a cop in a pink suit jacket and plaid pastel pants.
Miami Blues is about enjoying the performances of the lead actors and looking back at the decade of Miami Vice with fondness but also a bit of skepticism. Alec Baldwin flashes crazy eyes every time he slips into cop mode. Scruffy Fred Ward does a fine revisionist combination of Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs. Jennifer Jason Leigh overdoes understatement.
What it lacks in thrills it makes up for in pulpy fun. Miami Blues has been a guilty pleasure for many, but now you have my permission to guilt no more. Don’t bother with the non-anamorphic DVD that’s currently available. A new Blu-ray is on the way courtesy of Kino Lorber early in 2015. Fred Ward’s shirts will finally pop on home video the way they were originally intended.