Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)

When Ezekiel `Easy’ Rawlins loses his job he begins to worry how he’ll make ends meet when DeWitt Albright offers him cash to help find Daphne Monet, the fiancée of politician Todd Carter. He takes the job as she is known to like Afro-Americans and will be easier for him to find. He gets information from a friend but is then framed for her murder. Stuck between the police and Albright’s men, Easy has to uncover why Monet is so important to so many people and save himself from jail.

Franklin’s greatest achievement here is the way he brings the period to life, albeit with a certain amount of nostalgic love for the idea. The film has a great jazz soundtrack and a real sense of place and atmosphere to it. This supports the plot well and makes the film feel stronger and richer for it. The plot is a solid mystery that sees Easy pulled into a wider plot with the inevitable twists and turns. It is layered well without being too complex or difficult to follow, but neither does it allow itself to become too simplistic or easy. The film doesn’t really play on racism or the race of Easy but it does make race an equal influence (with money, power and influence) on the plot and the characters.

Washington plays Easy well, reacting well to things and being a good character. I don’t know if it was ever planned that Easy would be a character than would allow for further adaptations, but I know I would like to have seen Washington take Easy further into his PI role. Sizemore is good in support, as are Kinney, Carson, Beals and Chaykin. The strongest support is given by Cheadle. His character may be extreme but he brings an energy to the film that it benefits from (although it didn’t need it). The cast all ad to the rich feel of the plot and direction.

Overall this is a solidly enjoyable detective story with all the twists and turns that you could expect from that genre. However it also benefits from a great sense of place and time that is all though the film – not merely painted on with sets or soundtrack. A class act from Washington and others just adds to the feeling of quality.

Review by bob the moo

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