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A good cop, who has allowed his principles to be compromised once too
often, has it catch up with him amid allegations of internal corruption
and what appears to be an impending war between the criminal elements
of New Orleans, in 'The Big Easy,' directed by Jim McBride. Dennis
Quaid stars as Remy McSwain, an eleven year veteran of the New Orleans
Police Department, who from the day he joined the force learned that
the 'perks' that went along with the job were all just a natural,
acceptable part of the way things are done in the city they call The
Big Easy. It's just the way it is; and all is well until Assistant
District Attorney, Anne Osborne (Ellen Barkin), shows up one day, and
becomes inordinately concerned with a recent 'wise guy' murder Remy is
investigating. And it isn't long before things start to get a bit
sticky for Remy and a few others who suddenly find themselves caught
with their fingers in the cookie jar. But there are indications that
something is going down at the precinct that is somewhat more serious
than the penny-ante graft apparently being enjoyed by a number of New
Orleans' finest, and Osborne's job is to get to the bottom of it. Remy,
however, doesn't buy the idea that there are 'dirty' cops amongst his
own, and quickly puts some moves on Anne to find out what she thinks
she knows. And it starts him off along a path which, before it's over,
he may wish he hadn't opted to tread.
From the opening credits, as McBride takes you aloft and opens up his camera for a thrilling shot of the bayous and countryside rushing by below (backed by the blood stirring zydeco music that drives the entire film), he saturates the story with an atmosphere that brings New Orleans to life. And the vibrant sights and sounds of the city (including the engaging Creole dialects), are so richly textured that the city itself becomes as much an integral part of the story as many of the characters. As Remy would say in greeting, with his best prepossessing grin in place, 'Where you at, chere?'
And though the story itself is nothing especially original, the lively presentation and the mood McBride sets, as well as some unique characterizations and that special sense of time and place he captures, make it all seem fresh and new. The zydeco music, alone, is a treat and-- like the city-- is something of a character in itself.
Quaid fairly oozes Southern charm as the irrepressible Remy, a guy secure with his world and sure of his place in it. He's obstinate and self-assured, but without being pretentious, which makes it easy to like him. The natural fluidity of his distinct mannerisms and speech give his performance a ring of authenticity that makes Remy very real and entirely believable-- which, of course, adds credibility to the story. The character is a good fit for Quaid, and he definitely makes the most of it.
Barkin does a good job, as well, as Anne, employing her trademark crooked smile to great effect, and she has a genuine chemistry with Quaid that works well for the story. She brings a decided definition to her character, making Anne a woman who is strong without being overconfident, and not immune to vulnerability; it's her very humanness, in fact, that make her so accessible. It's a well rounded performance that allows you to see beneath the facade of the professional cop doing her job, to the very real person within. Barkin plays it all very well, and lets you know that there's more to Anne than meets the eye.
Notable in supporting roles are Grace Zabriskie, as Remy's mother, and Charles Ludlam as Lamar Parmentel. Their performances are great examples of the value of a good character actor, and the significant impact they can have on a film. Far too often they go unnoticed and unappreciated.
The supporting cast includes Ned Beatty (Jack), John Goodman (Andre), Lisa Jane Persky (McCabe), Ebbe Roe Smith (Ed), Tom O'Brien (Bobby), Marc Lawrence (Vinnie the Cannon) and Solomon Burke (Daddy Mention). Like a good bowl of spicy gumbo, 'The Big Easy' packs a wallop and will give you a good helping of satisfying entertainment, well worth the two bucks or so you plunk down for it. And by the time it's over, you'll be calling people 'chere' and fighting the urge to strap a washboard to your chest. So, hey-- where you at? It's the magic of the movies, chere. I rate this one 8/10.
I've seen various comments from those who say "The Big Easy" is one huge
stereotype and/or unrealistic. Well, sure, the stereotypes exist here, but
I feel that the directing of Jim McBride and excellent acting and chemistry
of Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin rose above it.
As for its being unrealistic...so is almost every movie ever made!
Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin had phenomenal chemistry as Remy McSwain and Anne Osborne. Their first love scene was, by turns, steamy, tender, and touched with a sense of not taking itself too, too seriously as some love scenes tend to do. Out of the bedroom, they prove to be just as interesting as in (Remy's "gray" concept of right and wrong definitely adds to such interest, as does his "crisis of conscience" later on), and that is truly, IMHO, a rare feat for a lot of such films.
Add in a great supporting cast (Ned Beatty's crooked, yet fatherly Jack Kellom, John Goodman's dirty cop André, Grace Zabriskie as Mrs. McSwain, Lisa Jane Persky as Det. McCabe, and many more) that actually lends more depth to what could have been a cut-and-dried shoot 'em up flick (mixed with some bed scenes for variety), as well as characters/actors who actually play off of each other well, and the film is very entertaining.
Sure, the whole "gumbo, let's party, Cajun fest" thing can be a bit much, but I still found this film a whole bunch better than a lot of films made in the same or similar vein. It also still seems remarkably fresh today, 15 years later (even if typing police reports via a typewriter now seems a bit passé).
In other words and in short, I am glad to own this on DVD and have it in my library.
Having just watched my video tape of this film again, I found it is just as
enjoyable today as it was back when it was first released. People who live
in New Orleans have written that it is unrealistic!! This is news about
movies?! If we want realism we can go out our front door and go to any city
and run with the cops for a shift. Almost all big cities have ride along
No, this is a FILM. And a good one, perfectly cast. The story of the corruption in a big city police department is a staple of cop films but is done with a fresh set of characters who are believeable.
Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barken are at the top of their career curve and play off each other to great effect. Their steamy love scene is as good as has been done in film.
Many good character actors fill out the rest of the cast and of course the music is just wonderful setting the mood for film. I don't know if this was filmed in New Orleans, but it sure looked like some of the city I visited years ago. I came for a convention and the host committee had some men who spoke just like some of these people in the film. Of course, they were from all the different suburbs and the city too. So maybe some of the critics who live there should get around more.
Just watch and enjoy.
The Big Easy is a fairly straightforward thriller about police corruption - a little predictable, but with occasional clever touches - but the apparent chemistry between Quaid and Barkin is outstanding, making this one of the steamiest movies I've ever seen (much hotter than 9 1/2 weeks, and with the benefit of a plot and sympathetic characters). Accents aside (I'm only an occasional visitor to New Orleans, and not qualified to judge), the other performances are also excellent, especially Beatty and Goodman as corrupt cops, and there are also some gut-bustingly funny moments and a wonderful soundtrack. The film may not do justice to modern New Orleans, but then, what movie ever did?
I found this to be a so-so modern-day film noir drama - not bad, but
nothing super. To its credit, it provides a little humor to offset the
It also provides the standard sex scenes, this one featuring Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin; the seedy New Orleans atmosphere and the standard cops-are- crooked angle. The last part plays a big role in this story as even the good guy Quaid admits to numerous minor offenses. Unfortunately, you can't always understand Dennis as he gives us his Cajun accent. He sounded - and looked - as if he had marbles in his mouth.
Barkin was not as rough-talking and rough-looking as she was in a bunch of other films from the mid '80s to mid '90s, which was fine with me. New Orleans was pictured, as it so often is, as very bleak and dingy. If city residents weren't happy with this movie, I could understand that.
The ending of the film is a little hokey but overall, the story was interesting and I gave it two looks over the years, liking it better the second time.
I'm sorry that people from New Orleans don't like this one. As someone who
has lived in New York City and its environs for her entire life, I have
PLENTY to say about innacuracies in movies and TV shows made about my home
town. But if, as in this case, the final product can overcome any
inaccuracies, why complain? Forget about the nitpicky details and have fun.
Sure, Dennis Quaid's accent is over the top. Sure, they got some things about New Orleans wrong. But who cares? The plot and the acting are both terrific, and the chemistry between Quaid and Barkin is potent; even when their characters are not speaking to each other, it's still pretty obvious that they can't keep their hands off each other. The love scene is done beautifully, and is far sexier than it would have been had it been more graphic.
I just wish the DVD treatment had been better. Other than that, I give The Big Easy 8 out of 10.
"The Big Easy" is a lot of fun for native New Orleanians. I've never seen
this film until yesterday, and it delighted me to see some of my former
colleagues in the NOPD Detective Bureau play cops in the movie. Gus Krinke
(now retired) actually did a very credible job as portraying an Internal
Yes, the 'accents' as portrayed here are unbelievable...many tourists are astonished to learn that most New Orleanians talk almost exactly like they're from Brooklyn, not some backwater swamp.
I understand Quaid enjoyed himself in New Orleans while making this movie, and it clearly shows. Grace Zabriskie (who was actually born in N.O.) was the most believable character. John Goodman liked the place so much he bought a home in the Crescent City.
Quaid and Barkin definitely put some spice in their roles...their chemistry was apparent and believable (unlike Quaid's accent), and their romance was really the only thing believable in this 'police movie'.
BTW, real New Orleans cops don't work out of 'Precinct Houses', sports fans, they're referred to as 'Districts'...New Orleans has 8 (eight) Police Districts. And I was delighted to see that the official ("unofficial") NOPD 'Vulture/star-and-Crescent' Homicide 'badge' was shown so often.
All in all, this film is a lot of fun despite its numerous technical flaws, and I give it 6 out of 10.
The Big Easy is directed by Jim McBride and written by Daniel Petrie
Jr. It stars Dennis Quaid, Ellen Barkin, John Goodman and Ned Beatty.
Music is scored by Brad Fiedel and cinematography by Affonso Beato.
Remy McSwain (Quaid) is a slightly corrupt New Orleans cop, who whilst investigating the murder of a mob man, finds himself under scrutiny by assistant district attorney Anne Osborne (Barkin). The waters start to become muddied when the pair begin to have a passionate affair, just as the can opens and worms spill out everywhere.
It's an odd film at times, a bit too jovial to be considered proper neo-noir, and Quaid's Southern accent takes some getting used too. It's also nearly derailed in quality as conventionality dominates the last quarter of film.Yet judged on its own thriller terms it entertains well enough whilst also having some neat technical touches to help it along. Petrie's script contains spiky dialogue and a number of bravura sequences light up the otherwise standard crooked cop story.
McBride dose good work on this, he opens his film up with a cracker of a camera tracker, and he makes good use of the New Orleans locations. He also has a good sense of prop choices to help the mood, none more so than with a scene involving Mardi Gras costumes, whilst he gets strength for the film by garnering tense and sexy performances out of Quaid and Barkin. Support actors also leave good marks, with Goodman as a cop colleague dominating the screen and Charles Ludlam almost stealing the film as McSwain's dry and near sleazy lawyer. Soundtrack, too, is well thought out, with the Cajun flavours spicing up the sweaty Orleans stew. 7/10
Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin star in "The Big Easy," a 1986 film set
in New Orleans, and also starring Ned Beatty, John Goodman, and Grace
I know an attorney who won a huge civil rights case in New Orleans and then had to run for her life with her family when her life was continuously threatened. The New Orleans police force has the reputation of being the most corrupt police force in the United States. That's saying something.
That corruption is visited here in this story of a mildly corrupt cop Remy (Quaid) investigating a series of murders of low-level drug people. The assigned assistant district attorney, Anne Osborne (Barkin) assumes from the get-go, because of the presence of a cop car at one of the murders, that the police are involved.
That's the background for a hot love affair between these two sexy characters who really steam up the screen. Quaid is delightful as the high-flying Remy, and he gets to show his range as an actor - going from flirtatious playboy to a grief-stricken man. Barkin is perfect as a woman trying to stay professional but finding it nearly impossible.
This film has some serious and disturbing moments, but the locale and the actors infuse it with charm and energy. Well directed by Jim McBride, who keeps up the pace.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A cop on the take falls for an internal affairs official who suspects that the recent underworld murders have been perpetrated by dirty cops. This is a fun movie with little Cajun trimmings. The music is nice, although I have not a clue of what the singers are singing about. Some of the characters have heavy dialects, but the actors do not divert attention with them. The dialect that Quaid used makes him more charming, if that is possible, which enhances his character. It may be overheated, but I think that it was supposed to be that way. Quaid and Ellen Barkin are the best part of the movie. Dennis Quaid's infectious ear to ear smile and Barkin's ability to be geeky and sexy play well off each other. The humor works too; Quaid uses a magnet to destroy the tape and plays a game of toupee keep away. The thing I appreciated the most was th way that the dirty cops weren't painted with a thick brush. The only real disappointment is the oddly abrupt ending, but it does't ruin the ride.
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