Devil in a Blue Dress Reviews
Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlings (Denzel Washington) is fortunate enough to be one of the few black men in 1940's California to own his own home. After getting fired from his job at a nearby plant, he is forced to take on a private investigating assignment in order to keep that home. His job is simple: Track down the whereabouts of a one Daphne Monet. The money is great, but it takes him down a road of intrigue and murder that he never expected. He has to get to the bottom of the mystery while warding off the cops, the crooked man that hired him, and two highly elected officials who also happen to be looking for Daphne.
The film can be confusing at times as it take a lot of twists and turns. It definitely requires your complete, undivided attention. It's a good thing that the mystery is so intriguing you can't help but pay all the attention you can afford. What begins as a film about a man trying to locate a missing person quickly turns into a story that you realize has multiple layers. Interesting Motives. Plots and subplots. It has everything you need to keep you glued to the television.
Denzel's performance was stellar as it typically tends to be. He's charming when he needs to be, but can flip the script in heartbeat and take on a more intense nature. His range never ceases to blow my mind.
He slightly, and I mean just slightly, outdid Don Cheadle's performance as Mouse, Easy's crazy, reckless friend from Houston. Anytime Mouse was in a scene it meant that trouble could happen at any moment. Seventy-seven seconds. That's literally how long he was on screen before he shot his first person. Clearly a man that doesn't have time to waste, his hastiness is also endearing as he is willing to rush to a friend's aid at the drop of a dime. He doesn't have to say much to leave you laughing. He's got a number of lines that stick out, but my personal favorite was: "You just said don't shoot him, right? Well, I didn't. I choked him."
Devil In a Blue Dress is a memorable, phenomenal movie that will stick with you long after you've watched it. I give it a 92.
So we could say that ?Devil in a Blue Dress? suffers from the fact that much of it is familiar, its edgy dialogue, sweltering ambience, and stylistically sensational setting updated but certainly too focused on paying homage to the days of Bogie and Bacall to really stand on its own two legs. It has too many debts to pay, afraid to go out on a limb and subvert everything we?ve come to know. The only things permeated over the years that are missing here are Hays Code diminished linguistics, black-and-white, subtle sensuality, and a primarily Caucasian cast. Everything else is film noir 101.
But ?Devil in a Blue Dress?s? unfortunate dependence on its sheen does little to diminish the frank commentary on the part of writer/director Carl Franklin, whose willful magnification of race relations in 1948-era Los Angeles gives the film fortuitous depth that only makes it an homage in terms of style, its substance mostly flirting with Dashiell Hammett radness but often times turning to deeper cultural thinking that makes it feel as authentic as it frequently doesn?t.
It stars Denzel Washington as Ezekiel ?Easy? Rawlins, an everyman whose livelihood is suddenly crushed after abruptly getting laid off from his job at Champion Aircraft. A WWII-veteran, he is not one to crumble under the weight of unemployment, willing to do anything to at least pay off the upcoming month?s mortgage payment. So he considers himself to be a fortunate victim of the hands of fate after he is asked by DeWitt Albright (Tom Sizemore), a mysterious stranger, to play private eye and find Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals), a missing white woman said to be hiding the outskirts of the black neighborhoods in the area. Her disappearance holds great importance, as she is the girlfriend of Todd Carter (Terry Kinney), a mayoral candidate whose recent dropping out of the race stumped and still stumps the residents of Los Angeles.
As in all film noir (this one especially is reminiscent of ?Farewell, My Lovely?), everything is not what it seems, and Miss Monet is part of a much more arduous plot than what is initially revealed. A standup citizen with good morals, Easy is not an experienced detective but a newly minted one, making the seedy characters, the dangerous situations that come with the territory, as shocking to him as they are to us.
Besides its believable but not overtly dominant reminders of segregation during the time, ?Devil in a Blue Dress? is conclusively more of the same. Yet devouring one?s popcorn is never a belittled factor. Appearances by slinky femme fatales, by thugs, by shady characters, is never something that grows tiring, and that?s why ?Devil in a Blue Dress? is a pastime that works. It reinvestigates already established style with eminent passion while also producing social waves not seen by most film noir of the time period, and it?s invigorating.
?Devil in a Blue Dress? is a mixed bag, though a good one, and Washington, along with an underrated Beals, take done-to-death character archetypes and breathe life into their well-dressed carcasses. I just wish it weren?t so worried about the ultimate factor of tribute ? it wants to break borders but is often held back by a recognizable approach.
There's an interesting exploration of the idealized life in his neighborhood and the mad dogs that could take it away from him at any moment. Easy is a homeowner who's friendly with his neighbors. He lives on a quiet, family-friendly street, but he associates with nightmarish people. Don Cheadle is malevolently insane as Easy's old friend, Mouse. Mouse is on Easy's side but there's such a dark intensity Cheadle brings to the movie, that he could shoot anybody at any second. The juxtaposition of these two lifestyles make for an fascinating contrast, more fascinating than the main mystery at hand.
Denzel is superb (as per usual) and the sociological views are intriguing enough, but the main story doesn't break enough new ground to be anything amazing.
Don Cheadle breathes a bit of fresh humour into the movie, and never lets it become too serious, which probable is the reason why this can be considered a step up from the classic film noirs. Based on an African American background, it is indeed a great watch on a nice evening after work.
But enough about me (or almost enough, actually there can never be enough) Denzel Washington and Don Cheadle blew me away, as did the soundtrack.
Of course, most of you are not as cool as I am and, therefore, are probably not cool enough to appreciate the great jazz/blues/1945-ish soundtrack; but I know Travis Thompson and John Pokerwinski certainly are and would certainly enjoy the music. And it would be a great cultural opportunity for the rest of you who might have such lofty aspirations.