People like myself who often despair of finding a new cop-and-crime movie that isn't encrusted in cliches should make a beeline for this wonderful sleeper by writer-director George Armitage (Vigilante Force), based on a novel by Charles Willeford (Cockfighter) and coproduced by Jonathan Demme. A small-time thief and ex-con (Alec Baldwin) arrives in Miami, latches on to a local hooker (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and winds up stealing the gun and badge (along with the dentures) of police detective Hoke Moseley (Fred Ward) in order to pose as a cop while pulling off more thefts. Some of the characters and situations, such as the thief's stylish chutzpah and his relationship to the hooker, recall Godard's Breathless, but Armitage's handling of the material is consistently fresh and pungent. The three lead actors all manage to be terrific without showing off--Leigh, in the course of an exquisite performance, does one of the best impersonations of a country southern accent that I've ever heard--and the use of varied Miami locations is a consistent delight. The late Willeford wrote four Hoke Moseley novels, and this crisp, funny, grisly, and perfectly balanced adaptation makes me yearn for Armitage to film a few more of them. With Nora Dunn, Charles Napier, and Shirley Stoler. (Esquire, Hyde Park, Norridge, Old Orchard, Webster Place, Burnham Plaza, Golf Glen, Ford City, Harlem-Cermak)

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