The Mighty Quinn Review

Don't look for it anymore - it barely made an impression in its late-night ITV slot when first broadcast in 1993/4, never mind ten years later - but Tropical Heat was just another example of a so-so crime series that, by being set in a sunny location, thought itself more exciting than the recorded evidence would suggest. Were there ever to be a court established in The Hague for war crimes against television, it is pertinent to suggest that Tropical Heat, as well as Hawaii Five-O and Magnum P.I., ought to have prepared a cast-iron defence.

Book 'em, Danno!

The Mighty Quinn

is also a crime comedy/drama set on a tropical island, in this case Jamaica, where Xavier Quinn (Washington) is the police chief called in by his superior, Governor Chalk (Beaton, Channel 4's Desmond) to investigate the murder of a wealthy white businessman, Patina (Colon). Chalk is a rather halfwitted official, wanting an answer quickly and prepared to pin the blame on Maubee (Townsend), a petty thief and Quinn's childhood friend. The problem is that Maubee's gone on the run and, with him being rather popular with the local community, is being sheltered at a number of safe locations.

Under pressure from Elgin (Fox) who is influential amongst, and representative of, the rich white population and being tailed by Miller (Walsh), sent down to Jamaica to investigate on behalf of Patina's business, Quinn finds himself up against a bit of local magic, a population hoping to ensure Maubee stays in hiding and a laid-back Jamaican lifestyle. Quinn suspects Maubee had little to do with the murder but uncovering the truth may make him very unpopular indeed...

You'll never really know the truth of the matter but apparently Bob Dylan wrote Quinn The Eskimo after watching Anthony Quinn playing an Eskimo in the 1959 film The Savage Innocents, directed by Nicholas Ray and also starring Peter O'Toole. By all accounts, the film shows the harsh reality of the lifestyle of the Inuit people and their conflict with mainstream Canadian society. In 1968, however, Quinn The Eskimo was covered by Manfred Mann who rejected much of Dylan's commentary to turn the song into a fairly light-hearted pop recording. From film to song to song to film, Anthony Quinn's Inuk, an Eskimo hunter prepared to speed his escape from the law by sending his elderly mother-in-law out onto the ice to die had become, some way down the line, Denzel Washington's Jamaican police chief with a dodgy boss. You also suspect that, in this case, the description of Quinn being 'Mighty' was made in jest.

To be fair, Washington doesn't do at all bad in his role as Quinn, already showing much of the ability that would ensure his later success, much as he had done in Glory and Cry Freedom, both of which were released prior to The Mighty Quinn. Washington has enjoyed considerable success with an attractive, easy-going charm and in keeping him in almost every frame of the film, Schenkel ensures that some of this effortless appeal keeps his film ticking along without ever really threatening to crack on with any vigour. Indeed, other than Walsh and Townsend, Washington is one of the few highlights of the film, which is otherwise a rather generic little thriller and the impression lingers that Schenkel hoped that the audience would be sufficiently seduced by the appeal of the locations not to notice the story is more than a little flimsy.

As a result, there is always the suspicion that The Mighty Quinn was planned as a pilot for a television show but that Washington's later success scuppered its commission. This impression is reinforced by the title of the show, the lead character being named so and a reggae version of the theme song, which, in case you were wondering, really is The Mighty Quinn performed by Michael Rose. It should really go without saying that Quinn is a policeman with a few problems at home including a wife who's looking to assert her independence a little by singing with a local band and a son who gets picked up late from school due to the pressures of the case. Completing the picture is a local population of comedy ne'er-do-wells, a lovable folk hero, an ineffectual boss and some residual conflict with the rich white population. In fact, the only things missing are a catchphrase and a sassy female sidekick - get those and Schenkel could have sat back and waited for Stephen J. Cannell or Glen A. Larson to come in and sort out the syndication rights.

If a little bit hopeless, The Mighty Quinn is not without a few highlights - the acting is solid throughout, there's a lightness of touch that is fairly appealing and the reggae soundtrack isn't bad if a little bland (think UB40 rather than Lee 'Scratch' Perry) with a version of Guess Who's Coming To Dinner by Black Uhuru's Michael Rose that is not all bad.


Having been anamorphically transferred in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, The Mighty Quinn looks fine if not exactly outstanding. Being set on Jamaica, you might expect it to be a riot of colours and in some of the party scenes, that's pretty much what it is, but there's also the sense that, to keep the budget low, the action had to be moved out of popular locales on occasion and into deserted parks and fields, which are framed nicely but are also quite dull and lifeless to watch.


The sound is also transferred in its original 2.0 Stereo mix, one that is clean, free of noise and is well balanced across the two front speakers. Given the free space provided by the short running time of the main feature and the lack of extras, there are five audio tracks and thirteen languages subtitled.


Only one bonus feature and, as expected:

Trailer (1m23s, 1.85:1 Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): There's little innovation here in being no more than a summary of the plot with plenty of focus on a laid-back Jamaican attitude.


It's not terrible by any means but The Mighty Quinn is simply not much more than a less-than-satisfactory crime thriller made to look better than it really is by the presence of Washington, Townsend and Walsh. There's nothing outstanding, very little of any real interest and it smacks of being made for television for a series that was never commissioned. Washington would go on to Oscars, widespread acclaim and a number of very successful films, Schenkel drifted into making television serials for the Hallmark channel.

Is this recommended? Not really unless you're a particular fan of Denzel Washington but even then, there are better films to own. However, if there are any collectors of pilot episodes of TV series that were never made, and chance dictates that there must be one, then this may well be on interest. As for the rest, it's unlikely that The Mighty Quinn will satisfy.

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