The Big Easy Reviews
McSwain is a small-time policeman who sincerely wants to do the right thing on a day to day basis, and he mostly does, though he often flirts with corruption due to the region's unethical, offhand relationship with its criminals. Osborne, a district attorney, is sent to probe complaints revolving around nefarious law practices in New Orleans, McSwain among the first people she comes in contact with. Their attraction to one another is immediate, but Osborne is skeptical, especially after seeing McSwain repeatedly, and absentmindedly, commit actions that most would regard as corrupt.
A couple of white hot love scenes later, though, and the two have formed an unconventional relationship, surviving even the most potent of obstacles because passion, because genuine love, is much too great. But still picking at their romance is the crime they're investigating, which has caused a chain of murders in the area that doesn't seem to be stopping any time soon. Taking his past bouts of abjection into consideration, kept in check by his newfound mate, McSwain is faced with a theory certainly too disheartening to outrightly admit: could the officers he's worked with for most of his adult life be behind it all? Before long, he and Osborne begin to realize targets are located squarely on their backs, and that those hoping to off them are more ruthless than they might have at first considered.
Bodacious and blistering, "The Big Easy" is one of the most carnal thrillers of the 1980s. Just don't expect "Basic Instinct" bawdiness here. At its heart is an engaging romance between two three-dimensional characters, both of whom we really and truly do care for. We relish watching them fall in love so much that, through bouts of bitter contention, no less, the film's more thrilling aspects end up working as added aromas and flavors ready to ensure salivation. On a deeper level, "The Big Easy" wants to be a crime drama with attention drawn to how dishonesty can histrionically affect a susceptible city, but we come to savor its leading couple so much that'd we rather the film just play it straight.
But it still successfully combines genres, reminding us that the tired trope of movie romance can effectively exist even in the midst of torrid criminality. Luckily, we care about what "The Big Easy" has to offer. McBride's direction is stylish but empathetic; it would border on pulpiness if not for the way he keeps it all so grounded, so focused when drifting into neo-noir conventions could have been a reality. Quaid, mastering a Cajun accent, is an interesting hero, his unraveling one of the best things about the film. Notice how his confidence eventually gives way to a subtle existential crisis, how he is forced to rethink what he's come to know about himself. So sensitive is Quaid's performance that ignoring how nuanced it is is certainly a possibility. Barkin is as candidly vulnerable, a leading lady with a lot of heart and a lot of pluck. Both characters are powerful figures, but the film is more compelled to analyze their bouts of self-doubt, and the actors playing them are more than efficient (and charming) at doing so.
"The Big Easy" is the rare kind of thriller that unpretentiously grabs us and transports us, not because it is hell bent on proving itself to be a marathon of suspense but because it feels true to life in ways the cinema seldom is. We are just as captivated by its characters (maybe even more so) as we are its jolts and shocks, and that rarity is restorative.
Jim McBride´s "The Big Easy" has been on my list for quite some time and I must say that I was disappointed on the film after my view. In contrast to the late and great Roger Ebert who said "The Big Easy is one of the richest American films of the year. It also happens to be a great thriller. I say 'happens,' because I believe the plot of this movie is only an excuse for its real strength: the creation of a group of characters so interesting, so complicated and so original they make a lot of other movie people look like paint-by-number characters." I experienced an amateurish and flat thriller with solid names such as Dennis Quaid, Ellen Barkin, Ned Beatty and John Goodman being completely out of shape and performance. Quaid's Cajun accent is ridiculous and forced, Barkin´s angriness fools no one and Ned Beatty´s corrupt police captain is hardly believable. McBride has tried to handle this neo-noir thriller with a comic hint and it doesn't work at all. Most actors are balancing on the verge of comedy all the time and there´s no sexual spark between Quaid and Barkin. I have no idea how "The Big Easy" has ended up being praised. If you want a gritty, sexy and violent New Orleans crime thriller see Walter Hill´s magnificent "Johnny Handsome" instead in which Ellen Barkin shows her true acting talent.