Directed by Carl Franklin
Written by Carl Franklin from a novel by Walter Mosley
Starring Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals, Don Cheadle
Film noir was a genre of the 40s and 50s: black and white films, very often set in southern California, with private detectives travel through a corrupt world and are set up by treacherous dames. The genre died out with color, as though it couldn’t stand the brightness, but every once in awhile someone tries to made a more modern version. Devil in a Blue Dress was one of those attempts, which adds a racial element to the mix.
Easy Rawlins (Denzel Washington) is an unemployed factory worker who is given money by a stranger named DeWitt Albright (Tom Sizemore) to find a missing woman. Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals) is missing, as a white woman who liked to visit black jazz clubs, Rawlins is hired to search for her without being conspicuous. As Rawlins gets drawn into a web of intrigue, bodies start to show up and he enlists the help of his friend, the psychopathic Mouse Alexander (Don Cheadle) in order to get to the bottom of everything.
The movie is based on the mysteries of Walter Mosley, who wrote in a world where racial issues informed the world, an extra layer to the standard Noir.
Denzel Washington has already established himself as a major acting talent, but the person who steals the show is Don Cheadle. I had known him in the delightful Picket Fences. His Mouse is one of the most memorable characters in film – charming, dangerous, funny, and capable of anything (“If you ain’t want him dead, why you leave him with me?”).
The movie pretty much broke even. Director Don Franklin was a TV actor who moved to the directors chair and seems to have made a success of it. It’s a different look at the type of noir that, though usually black and white, is very rarely black.