I have yet to be disappointed in a performance by Denzel Washington. The guy just seems to bring class to any production he's a part of, and his new mystery thriller, "Devil In a Blue Dress" is no exception.
Based on the novel of the same name by mystery writer Walter Mosley, "Devil In a Blue Dress" takes place in a racially tense Los Angeles of 1948. The town is booming, but only for the well connected. Segregation is a way of life, and everyone has some kind of action on the side. It's in this environment that Easy Rawlins must make his living, any way he can. Unfortunately, he's just lost his job, and his house payments are coming due. So, when a shady Italian gangster-type offers him a job locating a mysterious woman, he's in no position to refuse.
Obviously, that's Easy's first mistake, as he's drawn into a web of deceit, murder, and blackmail in pursuit of his mystery woman. He's charged with murder, and is roughed up by a pair of brutal, racist cops who just want a Black man to take the rap; the power hungry city politicians want to use the whole sordid business to grab even more power; and to top it all off, the guy Easy calls for help, his old buddy Mouse, is a violence prone psychopath who maims first and asks questions second.
All of which makes for an extremely entertaining, well written movie that rises above most of the drek the movie going public is bombarded with. Like any good mystery, the plotline is challenging, with character names thrown at the viewer in a fast and furious fashion that tests the attention span. The performances are rock solid, with Denzel Washington once again proving his status as one of Hollywood's top leading men. His performance as Easy is reason enough to see the movie, but equally good in a much smaller role is Don Cheadle as Mouse, Easy's psycho, gun-toting buddy. Cheadle fleshes out his role, and brings enough quirkiness to his performance to make Mouse seem appealing in spite of his murderous tendencies.
Best of all, "Devil In a Blue Dress" is the kind of movie that shows a fair amount of respect for its audience. Easy clues aren't just given away; the viewer is respected as a person of intelligence, capable of enjoying a challenging plotline, with well written dialogue. Gee, do you think this could be the start of a trend?
Copyright 1995 John A. Lavin
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