Finite Focus: Trouble (Miami Blues)

This is why we love Alec Baldwin.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the actor was considered a major discovery after several successful supporting roles (Beetlejuice, Working Girl, Married to the Mob) and the immediate follow up of The Hunt for Red October seemed to cement him as dashing leading man. Bur really, Baldwin has always been a world-class character actor. And while he is certainly the lead in George Armitage‘s criminally underrated Miami Blues, the goofy black-comedy nature of the piece is more a celebration of character actors (note Fred Ward, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Charles Napier round out the cast) than a star vehicle. Baldwin plays a career petty criminal that lives moment to moment being a general bad ass and roguish lowlife. While arriving in Miami, we get this great character introduction:

He goes on to get tangled up in the lives of a dimwitted ex-hooker Susie (Leigh) and a police officer, Hoke Mosely (Ward), from whom Junior lifts his badge and identity. Much of the film involves the strange domestic relationship he has at home with his new girlfriend or his ‘day-job’ of impersonating Mosely, which leads to the films most memorable scenes: Junior stopping various crimes in the city before becoming the perpetrator scumbag himself. This scene of actually stopping a crime (in quite unlawful fashion) is probably the signature one which gives the flavour of offbeat fun:

Baldwin went on to several high-profile flops before settling into roles that had shades of what he did here in Miami Blues: Making the audience smile while being a general pain in the ass (Glengary Glen Ross, The Departed, The Cooler). And George Armitage found a more widely palatable way of projecting his not-quite-mainstream tonal style with a little film called Grosse Point Blank. Miami Blues is strangely paced and thoroughly unpredictable because really, it’s one of a kind. More people should discover this one. I dare say that it was Alec Baldwin‘s watershed moment for his true calling. Highly Recommended.