Kansas City is a 1996 crime film directed by Robert Altman and starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Miranda Richardson, Harry Belafonte, Michael Murphy, and Steve Buscemi. Kansas City is also notable for its musical score being integrated into the film, with modern-day musicians recreating the Kansas City jazz of 1930s.
The film was entered into the 1996 Cannes Film Festival.
A kidnapping goes down in 1934 Kansas City. Blondie O’Hara’s (Leigh) petty thief husband Johnny is taken by gangster “Seldom Seen” and held prisoner at the Hey Hey Club, one of the hot spots of the Kansas City jazz scene. Blondie herself kidnaps the wife of a local politician, Mrs. Stilton, who is addicted to laudanum (an opium liquid) and has secrets of her own. Blondie’s plan is to blackmail Mr. Stilton into helping to free Johnny.
Despite the risk to his re-election campaign, Mr. Stilton does everything he can in order to free his wife by saving Johnny. Meanwhile, Mrs. Stilton comes to befriend Blondie. She is impressed by Blondie’s devotion to her husband, contrasted to her own loveless marriage.
A subplot concerns political fixer Johnny Flynn (Buscemi) paying vagrants and addicts to vote in the upcoming election and sway the outcome.
Kansas City received mixed to positive reviews from critics, as it holds a 63% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 35 reviews.
The soundtrack was produced by Hal Wilner and Steven Bernstein and featured several contemporary musicians playing the roles of famous jazz musicians from the 1930s. For example, Craig Handy plays the role of Coleman Hawkins, Geri Allen plays Mary Lou Williams, and James Carter plays Ben Webster.