Picks and Pans Review: Kansas City
Like a ballplayer who hits .350 one year and .110 the next, director Robert Altman creates erratic extremes with his movies, from the expansive brilliance of Nashville and McCabe & Mrs. Miller to the whiney. causticity of The Player, the impenetrability of Quintet or the convoluted artsiness of this pretentious film.
Altman and cowriter Frank Barhydt, having set their movie in Alt-man's hometown, Kansas City, Mo., make an apparent attempt to tell their story in a style similar to the loose, hard-driving approach of Kansas City jazz. They dispense here with chronological order and instead resort to multilayered flashbacks that strand their characters in dense, often confusing scenes. This muddles the movie's motivating event, a holdup by ne'er-do-well Mulroney, who robs a black gambler. Local hood Belafonte (see page 61) has Mulroney kidnapped, which prompts Leigh, Mulroney's wife, to kidnap a politician's wife in hopes that the pol will help rescue Mulroney.
Belafonte is amusing as a gruff hood, but Altman allows Leigh free rein to grimace, snarl, vamp and flounce. Like Leigh's performance, the movie is too silly and disjointed to be much fun. (R)