Devil In A Blue Dress Review
Los Angeles, 1948, and Ezekiel 'Easy' Rawlins (Denzel Washington, who seems born to play these roles) has just been fired from his job at the aircraft factory, and he needs money fast, as his mortgage payments are due and he doesn't want to surrender his nice house. So, Easy doesn't say no when the archetypal 'mysterious stranger' DeWitt Albright (Tom Sizemore, who like Washington is almost perfectly typecast) offers him one hundred dollars to merely locate a missing woman named Daphne (Jennifer Beals) who is linked to a political candidate. Soon and predictably enough, Easy is drawn into a web of deceit and murder, and quickly learns that he has been sucked into a lot more than he bargained for.
The acting by Washington, Sizemore and Beals is very good, but it's Don Cheadle as Mouse, Easy's childhood friend with a penchant for becoming extremely headstrong in the heat of the moment who shines the most. Cheadle brings humour and psychotic fear to his role, and the film is all the better for it.
Devil In A Blue Dress is an extremely competent film-noir, and fits nicely into the portfolio of the genre despite the unusual twist of a mostly black cast. The period and production design authenticity hits the right note perfectly, and the 1948 setting is utterly convincing without pandering to an over-indulgence of visual nostalgia. The directing by Carl Franklin isn't flashy, and Franklin allows the film's story and plotting to always remain at the forefront, and doesn't let his directing bog the film down at all by aiming for innovative touches. Essentially, Devil In A Blue Dress never tries to be anything more than a good detective story, and it fits that description well. It’s best described as a sort of hybrid of a Chester Himes novel and a Raymond Chandler one, and this is the film's only criticism, in that some of the expected twist and turns seem cut and pasted from other efforts. Even so, for an enjoyable and intelligent piece of entertaining crime fiction, Devil In A Blue Dress is more than worthy.
Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the picture has a hazy, intended look to the proceedings, and the grainy occasional look dates the film a few more years than it actually is. Even so, the picture quality is generally acceptable.
Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (and not 5.0 as stated on the packaging), the sound is generally a 2.0 surround mix with occasional rear noise. However, the sound use of the spatial channels is very good and effects are placed around the channels with some thought.
Menu: A static menu depicting a promo shot of Denzel Washington with the options being represented by flashing neon signs. For a static menu, this is probably as good as you are going to get.
Packaging: The usual amaray casing and design that maintains the usual Columbia-Tristar look.
Carl Franklin Commentary: Carl Franklin delivers a good commentary, revealing some interesting stories about the production, talking about changes he made to the film's plot and explaining some of the intended touches he made when he directed the film. There are few pauses and Franklin is never boring.
Don Cheadle's Screen Test: A fifteen minute extra showing screen tests undertaken by Don Cheadle for the role of Mouse. This is interesting to watch, as it shows how hard casting can be off screen tests and also shows that some of the script elements had changed in the final screen version. Also featuring an introduction by Carl Franklin praising the cast and singling out Cheadle.
Talent Profiles: Some brief textual pages talking about Carl Franklin, Denzel Washington and Tom Sizemore.
Trailers: The original theatrical trailer, and a trailer for the dreadful misfire of a good Jeffrey Deaver book that is The Bone Collector.
Devil In A Blue Dress is an enjoyable film-noir and will please most, although it is advisable to see the film before purchasing, as even though the commentary by Franklin is a worthy one, there isn't enough to warrant a purchase unless you are a fan of the movie.