Rogue 10: Ten Movies That Could Only Take Place in Florida

Friday, 26 April 2013 10:46 Written by  iamrogue
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Rogue 10: Ten Movies That Could Only Take Place in Florida

Pain & Gain, hitting theaters nationwide today, April 26th, is the sort of story that could only really happen in Florida.

Mark Wahlberg (Ted), Anthony Mackie (Gangster Squad), and Dwayne Johnson (G.I. Joe: Retaliation) are a trio of burnout bodybuilders, none of whom are especially bright or industrious.  Despite that, the three team up to execute Lugo's criminal plan to elevate himself out of his life as a gymrat and trainer.  Lugo aspires to his piece of the American dream, and he intends to get it by kidnapping a wealthy businessman in a harebrained extortion scheme.  Naturally, not everything goes according to plan and all hell breaks loose.

The movie is a longtime passion project for Michael Bay (Transformers, The Rock), who frames the action comedy with the gaudy style of mid-nineties South Beach.  Not only is Miami the perfect place to tell this story, it is perhaps the only place to tell this story.

And that got us thinking, kicking around ideas here at IAR HQ.  In some films, location is purely a product of which state offers the best tax incentives; it's incidental.  In fewer films, though, setting is inextricably connected to story.  And in even fewer films, Florida is essential to the telling of the tale.  The peninsula down below Alabama and Georgia is a tropical wonderland of beaches, gators, crocs, the Everglades, Disney World, neon-soaked cities, diverse and vibrant cultures, manatees, and eccentric human behavior.

With its humid tropicality, beautiful landscapes, and general sexiness, Florida is the perfect setting for many a film.  In recognition of Pain & Gain's theatrical release, we've compiled a ten-spot of movies that could take place nowhere other than the great state of Florida.

Here, in no particular order, are ten movies that could only take place in the Sunshine State:

Scarface (1983), directed by Brian De Palma

There are maybe two or three places on the planet where Tony Montana (Al Pacino) could build such an impossibly gaudy, overdone mansion without being run out of town by high class tastemakers.  Instead, the kingdom that cocaine built looks right at home in the pastel and neon environs of this most surreal state.

Magic Mike (2012), directed by Steven Soderbergh

Tampa perfectly illustrates the difference between the screeching delirium of a booze-filled night at the strip club (regardless of which gender is stripping) and the burnt-out, too-bright daylight reality of the hangover that follows.  Soderbergh juxtaposes the palatial beauty of coastal Florida with its suburban anonymity and blankness, like the difference between a strip club under party-ready blacklight and harsh fluorescent bulbs.

Bad Boys (1995) and Bad Boys II (2003), directed by Michael Bay

Yes, Bay has lovingly rendered Miami onscreen before.  The city gave exactly the right cartoony context for his happily ludicrous directorial debut starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as vice cops with no regards whatsoever for due process.  And eight years later, for the sequel, Bay somehow went even bigger, staging a car chase through the city that is certifiably insane and eventually heading to Cuba to drive a humvee through a shantytown in a trenchant commentary on American foreign policy.

Body Heat (1981), directed by Lawrence Kasdan

Femmes fatale needn't be limited to the asphalt jungle.  In fact, the sweaty environs of the Everglades make the perfect home for Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner), giving just the right amount of sun-drenched fever to her erotic machinations.

Wild Things (1998), directed by John McNaughton

Only in Florida could the myriad twists, turns, and double crosses of this thriller make even the vaguest hint of sense.  Also, only in Florida could a vicious pool fight between Neve Campbell and Denise Richards somehow jump immediately into Cinemax-style lady on lady action while Kevin Bacon watches from the bushes.  Bonus points for Bill Murray as a disreputable lawyer who looks right at home in his strip mall office.

From Justin to Kelly (2003), directed by Robert Iscove

It's a movie designed to cash in on the phenomenal success of American Idol's first season starring winner Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini as two kids who fall for each other on spring break, but are kept apart for far too long by the vagaries of fate.  Where the hell else could it possibly have been set?

Some Like It Hot (1959), directed by Billy Wilder

Dressed in shabby drag, Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) somehow manage to convince dozens and dozens of people that they are, in fact, women.  It would be easy for modern audiences to poke holes in this classic comedy, but there's actually an easy explanation for why Sweet Sue and the Society Syncopators never take note of the drag: they're drunk on the promise of their trip from freezing Chicago to sunny Miami.

Night Moves (1975), directed by Arthur Penn

Like a few other entries on this list, Night Moves gets a lot of mileage out of positioning dark content against the bright backdrop of the the Sunshine State.  None does it quite so harshly as this detective tale, the noir-inflected storytelling of which culminates in a savage, ironic burn of a conclusion.  Bonus points for Gene Hackman's sexhound ex-football player looking so out of place all the time.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994), directed by Tom Shadyac

The whole plot is based around the kidnapping of Snowflake, the Miami Dolphins' mascot, and a crucial dramatic escalation involves Dan Marino being abducted.  Obviously this movie has Florida in its very bones.  It's perhaps the only state where an obviously unstable pet detective find so much work.

Key Largo (1948), directed by John Huston

Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart) is just doing the decent thing, heading to the eponymous island to extend his sympathies to the widow of his WWII pal.  Then a bunch of criminals end up at their rundown hotel, confronting McCloud, a man thoroughly disillusioned by war, with thuggery, intimidation, and the constant threat of violence.  As Bogart and Edward G. Robinson test each other, the tension drips just like the sweat from their brows in the stifling summer heat.  And in a setting-appropriate ticking clock, a hurricane is blowing in off the coast.

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