Kansas City

Film

Comedy drama

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Time Out says

It's 1934, and Kansas City - the wide-open capital of jazz, gambling and crime run by 'Boss' Tom Pendergast - is hotting up, not only for the local elections, but for a 'cutting contest' between top tenors Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins. But the only thing that concerns 'Blondie' O'Hara (Leigh), apart from wanting to be like her idol Jean Harlow, is how to get back her beloved Johnny (Mulroney), a petty thief held by gang-boss and night-club owner Seldom Seen (Belafonte) after a heist gone wrong. In kidnapping laudanum-addict Carolyn Stilton (Richardson), the wife of a bigwig adviser to Roosevelt, O'Hara hopes to force an exchange. Notwithstanding a slim central narrative thread (the shifts in the relationship between O'Hara and Stilton) and a mannered performance from Leigh, Altman's film mostly succeeds as a rich tapestry of characters, subplots, themes and events. Though the structure may seem loose (the film repeatedly abandons the plotline proper for scenes of the blowing jazzers at the Hey-Hey Club), it's actually subtle and tight, with a strange, adventurous arrangement of flashbacks, and unexpected links gradually and cleverly revealed between seemingly unconnected characters. Of the many fine performances, Belafonte, Richardson and the ever dependable Brooke Smith (as Blondie's sister) are probably the stand-outs, while the music (from the likes of Joshua Redman, Craig Handy, James Carter, David Murray, Geri Allen and Ron Carter) is simply a blast.
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Release details

UK release:

1996

Duration:

115 mins

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