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Kansas City
USA 1996
Directed by Robert Altman
Running time 115 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1.5 stars


Robert Altman’s umbrageous period film set in the Great Depression with the usual panoply of gangsters, seedy bars and vintage cars rambles along with no apparent raison d’être and nothing to mark it out from a slew of similar works. The contrived structure has Jennifer Jason Leigh, plying her now over-familiar (cf. The Hudsucker Proxy and Mrs Parker And The Vicious Circle) tough gal wares, and Miranda Richardson, who has very little to ply at all, working the main theme whilst a secondary plot has a 12-year old Negro boy helping a 14-year old pregnant coloured girl who has come to Kansas City to have her baby.

The story jumps from one track to the other and throws in a bit about rigged elections for good measure (Steve Buscemi appears here in typical form) but one feels the need to ask why did Altman, who co-wrote and produced, feel the need to make this film? The characters are two-dimensional and the film, which has an oversupply of dark interiors, never registers a spark of credibility. Kansas City was one of the epicentres of American jazz during this era and the recreations of the music of James Carter, Craig Handy, Joshua Redman and other artists is excellent but not enough to carry this unremarkable effort.

 

 

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