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Cool crime thriller starring a homicide detective with dentures

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Miami has a way of bringing out the worst in people, and the very best in crime writers. Think Carl Hiaasen. Think Elmore Leonard. Most definitely think Charles Willeford, inspiration for this cool, cult thriller from 1990. “Did you see the movie Gandhi?” asks an irritatingly persistent Hare Krishna, just before Freddie Frenger Jr breaks his middle finger and sends him into shock. Junior doesn’t know it, but he’s just killed a man?and he hasn’t even got out of Miami airport yet. Guess he never did catch Gandhi. Like Cutter’s Way, Deep Cover or Jim McBride’s Breathless, George Armitage’s movie somehow flew under the cultural radar. You discover these flicks almost on the off-chance, and then can’t believe the rest of the world never wanted to know. What makes Miami Blues special? For a start, heroic homicide detective Hoke Moseley (Fred Ward) wears dentures, which is some mark of distinction in this macho genre. His gnashers are promptly stolen, along with his gun, his badge, and his dignity, by the aforementioned Junior (Alec Baldwin), a just-released sociopath who proposes to the first hooker he meets, striking lucky with Jennifer Jason Leigh’s nice but dim Susie. She wants the house with the white picket fence, and the movie doesn’t laugh at her for it. Waving Hoke’s badge around, Junior patrols the streets, ripping off wrongdoers. Then starts to get into the role. He even collars a couple of Miami’s most wanted. Alec Baldwin’s live-wire performance is a collector’s item. His scenes with Leigh have a screwy mix of sincerity and cynicism which keeps the movie percolating. Understated but genuinely sharp, Miami Blues is one cult you may want to consider joining.

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