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With: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals, Don Cheadle, Maury Chaykin, Terry Kinney, Mel Winkler, Albert Hall, Lisa Nicole Carson, Jernard Burks, David Wolos-Fonteno, John Roselius, Beau Starr, Steven Randazzo, Scott Lincoln, L. Scott Caldwell
Written by: Carl Franklin, based on a novel by Walter Mosley
Directed by: Carl Franklin
MPAA Rating: R for violence, sexuality and language
Running Time: 102
Date: 09/16/1995
IMDB

Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Takin' It Easy

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In the aftermath of the Oscars, it now seems clear that Devil in a Blue Dress was one of the best films of 1995 and would have been a better choice for Best Picture (rather than Braveheart). The film is directed by Carl Franklin, who started out as an actor, directed a couple of TV movies, then surprised everyone with his excellent One False Move (1992). Franklin has quietly slipped in alongside John Dahl and Quentin Tarantino as one of the very best crime directors working today. Devil in a Blue Dress is a detective movie, based on a novel of the same name by Walter Mosley. The twist is that our main character is African-American and lives in the 1940s, when racial discrimination was far more blatant than it is now. The detective's name is Easy Rawlins, and it's a perfect character for Denzel Washington, who is kind of "easy" himself. In fact, I think it's his best role, ever. (Here's hoping that Franklin and Washington go on to film the other three books in the Easy Rawlins series.)

Easy starts out looking for a job and gets hired by a shady character to find a lady. He is smart and he is the right guy for the job... But his is the exact wrong kind of movie for me to be giving away plot details in a review, so I won't. But I will tell you to watch out for the great supporting performance of Don Cheadle as "Mouse." He is a great hair-trigger actor whom I've never seen before, but he becomes a star here. The other cast members include Tom Sizemore and Jennifer Beals, who both give strong performances. Beals, however, feels slightly cliched, as though she stepped directly out of a 1940s movie, rather than becoming a real person living in the 1940s. The rest of the movie is classic looking, yet totally contemporary, similar to what Chinatown accomplished in 1974. Ultimately, it's just a very solid detective movie. I'm not comparing Devil in a Blue Dress to Chinatown just yet, but wait a few years...