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Film / Miami Blues

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Miami Blues is a 1990 Black Comedy neo-noir directed by George Armitage and starring Fred Ward, Alec Baldwin, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, adapted from the novel of the same name by Charles Willeford.

Frederick "Junior" Frenger (Baldwin) is an ex-con and professional identity thief who hopes to start a new life in Miami. Unfortunately, while in the airport Junior inadvertently causes the death of a Hare Krishna and he makes a run for it. Hiding out in a hotel, he meets a naive and ditzy hooker named Susie Waggoner (Leigh). Falling in love with her, they make plans to settle down together. Unbeknownst to Susie, who believes he has reformed, Junior steals the badge, gun, and dentures of aging detective Hoke Moseley (Ward) and embarks on a crime spree by stealing the loot of other criminals. Understandably angry, Moseley begins pursuing Junior.

This Film Contains Examples Of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: A few of these, usually between Junior and Susie about their relationship.
  • Action Girl: The pawn shop proprietor, briefly. She is suspicious of Junior as soon as she sees him, and manages to lop off a few of his fingers with a machete while he's distracted by Pedro and attempting to rob the store. She doesn't last long after that.
  • The Alcoholic: Both Frenger and Mosely are shown to drink often, any time of day, beer or liquor.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: An antisocial, violent, maladjusted career crook like Junior, of course has a sweet, young, hot chick who takes perfect care of him and loves him to death no matter what he does.
  • Bait the Dog: Junior seems like a Lovable Rogue and a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but as the film goes on he shows that he is really a murderous sociopath and a violent criminal.
  • Break the Cutie: Susie is the sweetest person in the film, and she winds up broken when she realizes Junior, the love of her life, is a violent criminal.
  • Chained Heat: The 2 bodybuilder drug dealers that Junior falsely arrests and leaves handcuffed together to a trash can, to be caught by real cops later on.
  • Carpet of Virility: Junior likes to hang out shirtless, and he sports the rugged chest hair confidently.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Junior is vicious, and he acts quickly when making his moves. In one instance when he's scoping out a pawn shop to rob, the shopkeeper introduces her big, buff armed henchman just to show off her security measures. Junior shoots him In the Back like a Dirty Coward the second he turns away.
  • Cool Guns:
    • First and foremost, the chrome Desert Eagle Junior steals from his neighbour.
    • The Micro Uzi, although it's only a squirt gun (unbeknownst to some characters)
    • Eddie's Ruger Super Blackhawk that Moseley borrows.
  • Cool Old Guy: Eddie, Moseley's elderly neighbour who loans him a Hand Cannon after having his pistol stolen by Junior.
  • Cool Shades: Worn often by Junior, and switched out a few times for different styles.
  • Create Your Own Hero: Moseley didnít really take investigating the Hare Krishna and catching Junior seriously, until Junior steals his identity and sends him into the hospital.
  • Crime After Crime: Having recently murdered a man back in California, Junior initially escapes by plane to Miami for a fresh start, where he straightaway resumes committing violent crimes and drawing the attention of police. He then mugs a police detective (Moseley) and goes on to pull armed robberies and shakedowns using Moseley's stolen gun, handcuffs, badge and identity.
  • Dangerous Workplace: Susan is told by Junior that he is no longer a criminal, has "investments," and just wants to go to work in the morning, and "sometimes at night," and have a wife waiting for him at home. She begins to realize the lie when Junior starts coming home with serious injuries, and Detective Moseley tells her about Junior's lengthy record and ongoing criminal activity.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Unbeknownst to Susan until Detective Moseley shares the truth with her about Junior: specifically his long and violent criminal history, and the fact that he's being investigated for murder.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Moseley. His partner Henderson is sarcastic as well, but lacks the Deadpan part.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: When Junior first arrives in Miami, he is using the stolen identity of a man named Herman Gottlieb, recently murdered by Junior in California.
  • Dirty Cop: Junior pretends to be one when disguised as Moseley. Sgt. Lackley is one for real.
  • Domestic Abuse: As Susan states explicitly: Junior never hits her. But he does lie to her about tons of serious shit including felonies and murders, and putting her in harm's way by making her an accessory to his crimes. He also hurts her feelings a few times by being cold and snappy with her. It is clearly a toxic relationship between an older, more experienced, violent sociopath and a young, trusting, clueless airhead.
  • Drop-In Landlord: The woman who rents Junior the house in Coral Gables. She also has nursing experience, which comes in handy when Junior gets banged up at "work."
  • Dying Curse: From Junior to Moseley: "Susie's gonna get you Sarge"
  • Edible Bludgeon: At one point, Junior inexplicably uses a jar of spaghetti sauce as a weapon to face down an armed robber at a convenience store.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Frederick Frenger, Jr. prefers to just go by Junior. Also when he's using the name Herman Gottlieb.
  • Establishing Character Moment: One of the first things we see Frederick Frenger do is cruelly snap back the finger of a peaceful Hare Krishna at the Miami airport, resulting in the man's death.
  • The Ditz: Susie.
  • Fingore: Edie chops off several of Juniorís fingers with a meat cleaver.
  • False Teeth Tomfoolery: Hoke Moseley's dentures are among the items stolen from him when Frederick Frenger comes to his apartment to mug him. There is a darkly humourous tone any time they are seen or discussed.
  • Hand Cannon: Specifically the Desert Eagle pistol that Junior conveniently finds while burgling his neighbours' apartment. You'd also have to include the Ruger Super Blackhawk revolver that Moseley borrows from an elderly gentleman.
  • Hardboiled Detective: Hoke Moseley.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Susan Waggoner, the dimwitted but genuine and caring young prostitute that Junior meets when he uses an escort service at his hotel. They actually like each other, and end up a serious couple.
  • Impersonating an Officer: Junior makes a full-time job of doing this after he beats up and robs Detective Moseley and takes his badge, gun, handcuffs and false teeth. He gets so comfortable masquerading as a cop that he seems to almost believe his own act at times.
  • Kick the Dog: When Frederick Frenger arrives in Miami, he is heckled by a friendly but persistent Hare Krishna in the airport terminal. The man introduces himself as Ravindra and asks Junior's name. Junior replies "Trouble" and breaks Ravindra's finger for seemingly no real reason. This causes Ravindra to go into shock and die, kicking off the homicide investigation that drives the plot.
  • Large Ham: Henderson. You can tell Charles Napier made the most of his screen time.
  • Lovable Rogue: Frederick Frenger is a devious, dangerous, violent felon, but also good looking and charming enough that he can be quite charismatic and relatable for short bursts when he's not engaged in criminal activity.
  • More Criminals Than Targets: Alot of the crime in this movie takes place between and amongst criminals, and they seem to be all over the place any time Junior needs to rob someone.
  • Non Violent Initial Confrontation: Detective Moseley initially meets Junior under semi-friendly circumstances at Susan's apartment, questioning Junior due to him being spotted by an eyewitness leaving the scene of the airport killing. The unassuming Susan invites Moseley to stay for dinner.
  • Only in Miami: Where the movie takes place.
  • Outdated Outfit: The ridiculous pink, yellow and plaid suit Junior is wearing in the last couple of scenes of the movie.
  • Police Are Useless: Played straight... at first. Junior makes the first move on Detective Moseley, surprising him at his apartment and mugging, beating and robbing him of his gun, handcuffs, badge and false teeth. Moseley is even teased about it at work and emasculated in front of a female detective. But the grizzled vet is determined, takes his licks, gets back up and later makes Junior pay.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Junior steals a police badge and goes out in public presenting himself as a cop. It works on some people, allowing him opportunities to rip them off; others can immediately tell he's a phony and up to something.
  • Ridiculous Exchange Rates: While counting up piles of cash from his robberies one day, Junior sarcastically laments that some of the money is in Brazilian currency, and therefore "absolutely worthless."
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Pedro, the intimidating guy with the shotgun guarding the pawn shop. He is offed by Junior immediately when he turns his back, and we never get to see him in action.
  • Stealing from Thieves: Most of the people victimized by Junior are in fact criminals that he catches off-guard and/or in the act. Exaggerated once he comes into possession of a police badge, handcuffs and gun.
  • Stupid Evil: Junior makes several decisions that wind up screwing him over.
  • Suicide by Cop: How Junior is ultimately killed, once he's cornered in his house by Detective Moseley.
  • Super-Strength: The plot is set in motion by Junior grabbing and snapping a man's finger, causing him to go into shock and die. He also easily breaks a thug's hand during a mugging, and Detective Moseley has a genuinely surprised reaction to Junior's grip strength when they first meet and shake hands.
  • Weapon for Intimidation: The replica water gun Micro Uzi that Junior buys at the store. He jokingly points it at the cashier, who recognizes that it's a toy. Soon after, he actually uses it to rob a group of drug dealers, carjack a passing vehicle and escape the area.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Pedro, the armed enforcer at the pawn shop, when he turns his back and is blitzed by Junior, mere seconds after being introduced.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The pawn shop lady is shot once by Junior and dropped, but it could be a survivable injury, and she's not confirmed dead when we last see her.