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Friday Film Review: The Big Easy

The Big Easy (1987)
Genre: Romantic Thriller
Grade: B+

When this film was released over 20 years ago, I remember all the detractors and criticisms. No one from New Orleans talks this way. Whenever the NOPD makes the news it’s because of corruption allegations. Why must Mardi Gras always be mentioned in any film about the city? It took me a few years to see it but from the first, I loved it.

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Homicide Detective Remy McSwain (Dennis Quaid) is an eleven year veteran of the NOPD. Before too long, he’s up to his ass in dead bodies from what appears to be a drug war between two factions in the city. But because of allegations of police involvement, special prosecutor for the DA, Anne Osborne (Ellen Barkin), is also riding his ass.

Remy, along with most of the other officers, has been on the take for years. He justifies accepting small bribes because he does a dirty job for little pay and less appreciation from the citizens he protects. Plus, everybody does it. But he still thinks he’s a good cop. Only…is he? And what about the others? Can they still do the job or has corruption corrupted them as well?

I understand that this is Disney New Orleans. But I still want to buy my all day admission ticket and enjoy my stay there. I want to wander these streets and imagine that people really talk this way, dance to this music, have parties like these and eat this food all the time.

And the music alone is worth the price. After I saw the film, I went straight out and bought the soundtrack CD. I still listen to it all the time. It’s full of fantastic music that gives the film such atmosphere.

The relationship between Anne and Remy is like oil and water with sparks. I love watching Anne, who’s wrapped as tight as duct tape, loosen up under Remy’s easy charm. She has a vulnerability that takes the edge off her tough woman stance. Meanwhile Remy, who starts out so relaxed and determined to get into Anne’s pants, shows some depth as he learns just how far he’s sunk from his ideal of being a good cop and where the trail of the investigation will lead him. That goofy grin of his keeps him from being too obnoxiously self assured.

Much has been said about their first scene in bed during which neither of them totally takes off their clothes. It’s hot, it’s as steamy as the midsouth in August and it’s not the usual “too slick and smooth” movie sex scene of beautiful people making perfect love.

The plot is a pretty standard police procedural thriller but with touches that make it all New Orleans. Sometimes it can be a challenge to keep all the names of the various criminal players straight but the first time through, just go with it. Watch it a second time to get the twists and turns of the plot unraveled.

A second viewing might also be necessary to notice all the excellent secondary cast. Ned Beatty, John Goodman, Lisa Jane Persky, and Ebbe Roe Smith are wonderful. I especially want to mention the smaller roles played by Grace Zabriskie, a true Cajun, as Remy’s mother and Charles Ludlam who plays the defense lawyer Lamar Parmentel.

I’ve seen this movie many times and I still love it. Yes, it has its problems but they’re not enough to detract from what’s good here: sizzling chemistry, great characters, and music good enough to drown in. B+

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

32 Comments

  1. KristieJ
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 06:07:26

    I was really late to see this movie too – in fact I only watched it for the first time about a year ago though I’d been hearing about it for years and I loved it too. I’d been hearing about the hawt love scenes between Anne and Remy and all I can say is Yep!

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  2. Jayne
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 07:03:08

    I also love the “morning after confusion” scene with Remy’s brother Bobby.

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  3. AnotherLori
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 07:28:42

    I haven’t seen this one in ages, but it was amazing. Dennis Quaid has an offbeat charm and this was Ellen Barkin at her best. It might have been Disneyland New Orleans but it was perfect escapism.

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  4. Meljean
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 07:32:33

    I love, love this movie. And now might have to watch it again soon.

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  5. Mary Stella
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 07:52:09

    One of my ten favorite movies. I was just in New Orleans last weekend for Heather Graham’s Writers Conference and heard people speak like Remy. Even the casino dealer from New York state slid out a convincing, “sure you right”. The music always seems to be playing on Bourbon Street. It felt like The Big Easy for sure.

    The movie works for me because of the way that Ann and Remy intertwine. It’s like watching two strangers come together for a dance. He wants to rush right into the cha-cha, but he has to whirl her slowly. She’s on top of the charts in her career, but in her personal love life, she has to let go and let someone else lead her through the steps.

    Dennis Quaid nails his performance as a man who at the start is 100% sure that he’s a good guy, but is forced to reconsider the very foundation of what he believed to be true about everyone and everything he knows.

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  6. Leslie
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 07:54:18

    I love this movie — always have. I remember seeing it in the movie theater and have watched the DVD dozens of times since then. “Watch out for the gator, baby!” Sigh. Dennis Quaid at his finest.

    L

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  7. Moriah Jovan
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 07:59:11

    Remy Mc*Swoon*.

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  8. Colleen
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 08:20:43

    As a native of Louisiana, the accents are over the top, but I still loved that movie! Dennis Quaid was at his best in this film, and the chemistry between him and Ellen was HOT! Disney-fied New Orleans, but I can suffer through it.

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  9. Kati
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 09:17:29

    I adore this movie. The suspense plot is pretty weak, but the chemistry between the two protags is combustable.

    Plus, it has to be said, Dennis Quaid has the most amazing abs like…ever.

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  10. Chicklet
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 09:22:10

    Love, love, love this movie! So refreshing to see a movie about romance between grown-ups. And the scenes with Remy and Anne are super-hot.

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  11. Jayne
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 09:34:40

    @AnotherLori: I can’t recall seeing Ellen Barkin in another movie I liked as well. Shame, as I think she’s a good actress.

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  12. Jayne
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 09:40:07

    Plus, it has to be said, Dennis Quaid has the most amazing abs like…ever.

    Oh yeah, those scenes of him shirtless in his blue jeans are enough to justify the cost of the DVD right there.

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  13. Moriah Jovan
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 10:27:18

    @Jayne:

    Have you ever seen Drop Dead Gorgeous? She’s hilarious.

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  14. Janine
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 11:10:48

    I adore this movie. Years ago, I even purchased the videotape, and this review makes me want to upgrade to a DVD. Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin were so good in it — but then, Ellen Barkin was great in everything I saw her in (I wonder what happened to her).

    The soundtrack was also excellent and you’re very right to mention it. Lots of good stuff on that CD — music by, among others, The Neville Brothers, The Dixie Cups, Buckwheat Zydeco and Beausoleil.

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  15. Janine
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 11:11:57

    @Jayne:

    What about “Diner”? Have you seen that? Ellen Barkin was in it and it was fab.

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  16. Estara
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 12:14:40

    @Jayne: The confusion scene is one of the few scenes from a movie that I can totally call back up when I think about the film. Mostly when I remember movies I remember a general sort of feeling or clever lines, but that was for my – then teen-age heart – sooooooooooo hot and funny ^^.

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  17. Christine Rimmer
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 14:13:20

    I love this movie. Had it in videotape and bought it later on DVD. From that first time he sees her and says, “Nice neck,” I was just gone. He’s great. She’s great. And as has been mentioned, there are several terrific secondary players.

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  18. Jayne
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 17:29:06

    @Janine: If you want to upgrade to a DVD, you’re going to have to buy it used as it’s not being produced anymore. Which bummed me when I went looking to buy it.

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  19. Jayne
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 17:33:49

    What about “Diner”? Have you seen that? Ellen Barkin was in it and it was fab.

    I have never seen that movie. I’ve seen her in Switch (lame movie) and Sea of Love (much better than I thought it would be) but never Diner.

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  20. Jayne
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 17:53:27

    Dennis Quaid nails his performance as a man who at the start is 100% sure that he's a good guy, but is forced to reconsider the very foundation of what he believed to be true about everyone and everything he knows.

    I think the confrontation scene after Bobby is shot is one of the most powerful of the movie. When Remy sees just how far things have gone.

    ReplyReply

  21. Carrie Lofty
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 20:04:44

    Man, I haven’t seen this in years. Srsly need a rewatch. For years when I read X-Men and imagined Gambit portrayed on screen, it was young Dennis Quiad as Remy…and Remy!

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  22. vivienne klaus
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 03:13:45

    Dear Jayne, so not only good reads bridge us (it’s probably a neologism, I don’t want to check the dictionary), also good movies. I love the dark, torbid and hot atmospheres of this movie, the plot and the characters, and I love Dennis QUaid. Besides, who with some oestrogenic hormones running in her blood wouldn’t? It’s a good police-thriller, too, and I re-watch it from time to time.
    Have a nice week end
    Vivienne

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  23. Sami
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 04:55:28

    Another of my absolute favs. I own it on DVD… must have gotten in before they stopped making it, lucky me. My hubby has seen it but doesn’t get why I love it so much. So perhaps it’s more about Dennis’s abs than I first thought… hmm.

    I must say you have great taste in movies. Soon you’ll be reviewing Bull Durham (oh do I love Costner’s speech about long wet kisses that last three days) and I’ll know we’re long lost sisters or something. Spooky.

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  24. Christine Rimmer
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 07:03:49

    Sami, my hubby likes it. He watches it with me now and then. But he always mentions that “there’s not much to it, is there?” I just smile. It’s okay if he thinks it’s more about style and atmosphere than substance, as long as he will watch it with me every couple of years…

    Same thing with TV’s THE CLOSER. I just love Brenda and Fritz and her mom and dad and all the characters in Major Crimes. Who cares about the plot? The DH does. But he will watch it with me. And hey, I watched every season of The Shield with him. And The Sopranos. So it works both ways.

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  25. Jayne
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 07:48:06

    Another of my absolute favs. I own it on DVD… must have gotten in before they stopped making it, lucky me.

    The price for the used ones on half.com isn’t bad at all. I think I paid about $6 total including shipping. Unlike some other OOP DVDs for which you have to pay a fortune.

    I must say you have great taste in movies. Soon you'll be reviewing Bull Durham (oh do I love Costner's speech about long wet kisses that last three days) and I'll know we're long lost sisters or something. Spooky.

    Thanks. And I do plan on doing that movie soon. The kisses speech is a classic as is the “water flooding over the side of the old fashioned bathtub” scene.

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  26. Chicklet
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 08:44:35

    Thanks. And I do plan on doing that movie soon. The kisses speech is a classic as is the “water flooding over the side of the old fashioned bathtub” scene.

    Ooooh, yay! I love Bull Durham — and I especially love that Annie and Millie aren’t demonized for being sexually active, like so many female characters are shamed for that. The scene when Annie is fitting Millie’s wedding dress gets me every time: “Annie, do I deserve to wear white?” “Honey, we all deserve to wear white.”

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  27. Anion
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 10:47:26

    Oh, I love this movie. I love Dennis Quaid, always and forever, no matter what he’s in.

    And I still say “Well, your luck’s about to change” is one of the all-time sexiest movie lines EVER, if not the sexiest.

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  28. DonLinn
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 12:02:45

    One of my all time favorites…thanks for the reminder–I’ll watch it this weekend.

    Ellen Barking is an excellent actress and her performances in this and Sea of Love (along with her debut in Diner) are some of the sexiest I’ve ever seen.

    And her role in Tender Mercies with Robert Duval is an absolute masterpiece.

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  29. Anon76
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 12:59:46

    Wasn’t Ellen Barkin in Oceans Thirteen? The chicky Matt Damon is supposed to seduce for the diamonds?

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  30. Anon76
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 13:15:28

    And I must admit to a guilty pleasure…I lubs her in the movie “Switch”.

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  31. SonomaLass
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 16:39:11

    Wow, I love finding out how many people love my favorite movies! This one, Bull Durham, and always and forever, Tender Mercies. *romantic sigh*

    Hmmm, must be time for a romantic movie night….

    ReplyReply

  32. DonLinn
    Sep 14, 2009 @ 11:31:27

    Ellen Barking

    Shoot me now.

    ReplyReply

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