Mo' Better Blues

Mo' Better Blues

Cast: Denzel Washington, Wesley Snipes, Joie Lee


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Spike Lee's 1990 directing effort is a jazz film, the story of a fictional trumpeter named Bleek Gilliam (Denzel Washington). He leads a quintet at the Beneath the Underground club with a flashy saxophonist named Shadow Henderson (Wesley Snipes). Though Shadow takes a few


Spike Lee's 1990 directing effort is a jazz film, the story of a fictional trumpeter named Bleek Gilliam (Denzel Washington). He leads a quintet at the Beneath the Underground club with a flashy saxophonist named Shadow Henderson (Wesley Snipes). Though Shadow takes a few too many solos, everything seems fine in Bleek's life. Trouble soon arises, however, and he is forced to make decisions regarding both his best friend Giant (Spike Lee), and his relationships with two women. Giant, his manager and old pal, is addicted to gambling and often gets roughed up by thugs looking for pay back. Bleek is the only member of the quintet who wants to keep him as manager. The trumpeter's woman problems concern trying to decide between two girlfriends who both love him: a schoolteacher (Joie Lee) and a singer (Cynda Williams). Spike's father Bill Lee scored the film, with contributions from Branford Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Abbey Lincoln and Ruben Blades (who plays Giant's bookie).

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Michael Costello
Spike Lee's film on the life of a jazz musician features some wonderful music, but in its slapdash construction and melodramatic hokiness, it does little to illuminate the nature of the profession it attempts to explore. Lee, whose father was a noted bass player, has an unquestionably vast knowledge of the jazz idiom and the kind of life that goes with it. But the conflict between a personal and professional life that can become a problem for so many musicians -- as it is for Lee's protagonist, Bleek Gilliam (Denzel Washington) -- is dealt with in only the most glib and superficial manner. A gifted trumpet player who can't decide which of his two women he cares for, he's reluctant to do the "mo better" when he feels he should be practicing, as though vital musical fluids might somehow be drained from his body. There's some amusing by-play among the musicians, and Wesley Snipes makes a strong impression as Bleek's sax player, but the film contains none of the intensely competitive, hothouse atmosphere of this musical world. The problem of the exploitation of musicians is addressed only in a repulsively anti-Semitic caricature of a pair of Jewish club owners. To top everything off, the film's ludicrous, deus ex machina ending is as bad as anything Hollywood pumps out at its worst. Still, there are some things to like, including the standup comedy of the late Robin Harris, the vibrant camera work of Ernest R. Dickerson, and Terence Blanchard's bracing score.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Universal Studios

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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Denzel Washington Bleek Gilliam
Spike Lee Giant
Wesley Snipes Shadow Henderson
Joie Lee Indigo Downes
Cynda Williams Clarke Bentancourt
Giancarlo Esposito Left Hand Lacey
Robin Harris Butterbean Jones
Bill Nunn Bottom Hammer
Dick Anthony Williams Big Stop Gilliam
Rubén Blades Petey
Jeff "Tain" Watts Rhythm Jones
Nicholas Turturro Josh Flatbush
Abbey Lincoln Lillian Gilliam
Linda Hawkins Jeanne
Zakee Howze Young Bleek/Miles
Bill Lee Father of the Bride
Branford Marsalis Party Guest
Samuel L. Jackson Madlock
Leonard Thomas Rod
Charlie Murphy Eggy
Steve White Born Knowledge
Joe Seneca Big Stop's Friend
Tracy Camilla Johns Actor
John Canada Terrell Actor
Monty Ross Actor
Mamie Louise Anderson Club Patron
Douglas Bourne Jimmy the Busboy
Leon Addison Brown Smith
Arnold Cromer Miles, Age 5
Herbert Daughtry Minister
Raye Dowell Rita
Anaysha Figueroa Shanika
Flavor Flav Impatient Movie Patron
Angela Hall Cora
Coati Mundi Roberto
Robi Reed Actor
Deon Richmond Tyrone
Scot Anthony Robinson Cooley
Christopher Skeffrey Louis
Jelani Asar Snipes Miles, Age 1
John Sobestanovich Taxi Driver
Raymond Anthony Thomas Joe
Sheldon Turnipseed Benny
Carol M. Wiggins Actor
Terrence Williams Sam
Darryl M. Wonge Miles at Birth
Glenn Williams Miles, Age 3

Technical Credits
Spike Lee Director,Songwriter,Producer,Screenwriter
Matiki Anoff Makeup
Terence Blanchard Songwriter,Consultant/advisor
Tom Brumberger Special Effects
Ruth E. Carter Costumes/Costume Designer
Ornette Coleman Songwriter
Ernest R. Dickerson Cinematographer
Michael Max Fleming Consultant/advisor
Ted Glass Art Director,Set Decoration/Design
Donald Harrison Consultant/advisor
Jon Kilik Producer
Bill Lee Score Composer,Songwriter,Musical Direction/Supervision
Branford Marsalis Songwriter
Christopher "Play" Martin Songwriter
Raynard Miner Songwriter
John C. Newby Camera Operator
Tom Newton Special Effects
Sam Pollard Editor
Robi Reed Casting
Monty Ross Co-producer
Wayne Shorter Songwriter
Carl Smith Songwriter
Pam E. Stephens Art Director
Wynn P. Thomas Production Designer
Jeff Ward Stunts


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