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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Robert Altman
New Line Home Video 08/96 DVD/VHS Feature Film
R - language, some violence and drug use
Kansas City is another spunky film in a series of Robert Altman portraits of the failure of the American Dream.
In this well-conceived drama set in 1934, all the characters are desperate souls willing to do anything to survive in the Depression.
Jennifer Jason Leigh, in a cagey and convincing performance, plays Blondie, a tough little cookie who kidnaps Carolyn Stilton (Miranda Richardson), the socialite wife of a Democratic Party bigwig. She wants him to use his power to get back her husband Johnnie (Dermot Mulroney). He's being held by Seldom Seen (Harry Belafonte), a wheeler dealer who runs a jazz club where gamblers congregate. Johnnie robbed one of his clients and must pay the price.
Two sidebar plots follow the plight of a 14-year-old pregnant girl and the nefarious exploits of Johnny Flynn (Steve Buscemi) who uses bums to vote for the Democrats on election day. This highly atmospheric film is a flavorful Altmanesque cocktail with witty commentary on race, political corruption, class warfare, power plays, and jazz music.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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