Kansas City

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +3

Content: -3

This fascinating film captures the desperateness of the depression in Kansas City in 1934, where only racketeers and jazz musicians seem to thrive. Small-time punks like Johnny (Dermot Mulroney) don't have much of a chance. Unfortunately, Johnny picks the wrong victim when he holds up a business associate of the ruthless Seldom Seen (Harry Belafonte), mobster kingpin and owner of the Hey-Hey Club. Johnny's girlfriend, Blondie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), knows Seldom is holding Johnny prisoner and will no doubt kill him. Blondie is a flaky caricature of Bonnie Parker of Bonnie and Clyde fame, living in a fantasy world who imagines she is a Jean Harlow look-alike. She brandishes a gun and talks tough as she takes a powerful politician's wife (Miranda Richardson) hostage, thinking she can negotiate Johnny's release. Her prisoner is so stoned on drugs that she seems a willing companion, almost enjoying the bizarre escapades Blondie forces her to participate in. KANSAS CITY's real star, however, is its spectacular jazz performed by some of today's best musicians, including Craig Handy, Joshua Redman and James Carter. As the Hey Hey Club's 24-hour jam sessions blare out the blues, audiences will overlook the disjointed plot of KANSAS CITY.

All that jazz, however, does not drown out the film's 11 regular profanities and 24 obscenities, plus many crudities. Many sexually suggestive remarks, mostly from Blondie, generate laughter as she uses crude terms almost innocently. Immorality flourishes as crooked politicians "fix" elections with hired voters and accept bribes from the mob. Hit men keep their bosses out of harm's way, and cocaine snorting makes life bearable. While these activities are not gratuitous or glorified, two hideous mob killings are unnecessarily graphic and gory. Blondie's tragic character does not have a criminal's heart, but in her misguided mind she can justify kidnapping, extortion and even killing, if necessary, to save the worthless Johnny's life. None of the characters display admirable qualities, but the focus of the film is on the city's vast underworld of degenerates. Although it has no nudity or sex scenes, KANSAS CITY's foul language and gory violence are enough to discourage discerning viewers.

Preview Reviewer: Mary Draughon
New Line Cinema, 575 8th Ave., 16th Floor, NY, NY 10018

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Many (16) times - Mild 6, Moderate 10

Obscene Language: Many (24) times - F-word 4, s-word 14, other 6

Profanity: Many (13) times - Regular 11 (J-C 4, G-d 7), Exclamatory 2

Violence: Few times - Severe (mob beats man to death, leaves body for dogs; extended view of gory wound of man shot; woman shot in head)

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Several times (crude references to sex and use of sexual terms)

Drugs: Many times (alcohol drinking, cocaine use, smoking)

Other: Racial epithets, racial prejudice of the 1930s portrayed

Running Time: Unknown
Intended Audience: Adults

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