Friday Film Review: The Big Easy
The Big Easy (1987)
Genre: Romantic Thriller
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.
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+