"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Devil in a Blue Dress (Revised)

Saturday, 23 Feb 2013 - I revised this post to add a couple of pictures, remove one that didn't really belong and to fix up some quotes.

Recently, Denzel Washington and Don Cheadle teamed up in Flight (2012), in which Denzel played an airline pilot who, when his plane malfunctioned in mid-air, managed to successfully crash land it, saving 96 of the 102 passengers and crew on board.

The sticking point, of course, is the six that did not survive.

It turns out that Denzel's character has a drinking problem, kept well hidden for years. That brings up the possibility of manslaughter charges.

Don Cheadle plays a lawyer for the pilots union, assigned to protect him from those charges, who is in awe of the pilot's performance in the incident, but is clearly disgusted with the man as a person.

Denzel has played bad guys before ("Training Day" and "American Gangster" come to mind) but this time he's brave enough to risk his image by playing an asshole. Don't recall him doing that before.

A powerful film, with strong performances by everyone, but it's not what this post is really about.

Washington and Cheadle were together once before,
in Devil in a Blue Dress (1995),...
From samefacts.com

... directed by Carl Franklin (who also did One False Move (1992) with Bill Paxton in one of his few starring roles, and Billy Bob Thornton as a very scary crook).

Walter Mosely wrote a series of novels about black detective Ezekiel ("Easy") Rawlins, of which "Devil" was the first.

The story is set in 1948. Rawlins, a  WWII army veteran, has moved from Houston to the Watts area of Los Angeles, to work in an aircraft factory and is paying a mortgage on a house. When he loses that job and is desperate for money, a friend introduces him to DeWitt Albright (Tom Sizemore) ...
From forums.filmnoirbuff.com

... who offers him a couple of hundred dollars (in a time when a rental or mortgage payment might have been $50.00/month) to help him find the missing fiance of a local politician.

That fiance, Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals) ...
From rollingstone.com

... has disappeared into the black community and Albright figures that Rawlins may have a lot more success than he would asking questions there.

Accepting the job, Rawlins soon finds himself in a "Chinatown" situation (the subtext of that movie being "You never knew what was going on.") in which people are killed, the local police become very interested in him in connection, and he is threatened by Albright and his goons...
Screencap from DVD

Back in Houston, Rawlins had a trigger-happy, dangerous as a rattlesnake friend, Mouse (Don Cheadle)...
From guardian.co.uk

... Because of those character traits ("If you got a friend that you know does bad things -- I mean real bad things -- can you still keep him as a friend? You think that's wrong?" - Reply: "All you got is your friends.") he's kinda kept his distance from him, but knowing he's in way over his head, decides it's time to give him a call.

Mouse arrives just in time ...
Screencap from DVD

... to help Rawlins in a confrontation with a local gangster upset by Rawlins poking around, shooting said gangster in the arm resulting in his departure.
(YES! That is a British Mark VI Webley service revolver in .455 caliber that Mouse is holding.  As this is three years after the end of WWII, a lot of them found their way over here, brought back as souvenirs by returning soldiers. It's not far fetched for Mouse to have gotten hold of one. While not quite as powerful as our .45 Colt or .45 ACP, nevertheless it does throw a big fat heavy bullet that makes a big hole and is a proven man-stopper. In short, it gets the job done. Mouse probably found it suited him perfectly.)

Rawlins (all his misgivings returning): "You ain't been in my house five minutes, and you've done shot somebody already!"

Rawlins finally meets with Daphne a couple of times, only to have her taken away from him at the second meet by Albright and his goons. Rawlins and Mouse go hunting for her, with the assistance of an associate of Albright whom they capture and force to tell where they might be.

They find them and a bloody gunfight ensues. I don't know what mean streets director Carl Franklin grew up on, but the violence and gunplay in his movies have a feel of someone who has either actually seen it, or more likely heard about it. Ugly and messy...
Screencap from DVD

Returning to their car, with Daphne, Rawlins looks for that associate mentioned above: "Where's *****?, Mouse"

Mouse (like a kid who's done something he shouldn't):  "Huh?"

Rawlins: "Where *****?"

Mouse: "Uh - he's - uh - right there."

Rawlins (seeing a body on the ground): "What happened?"

Mouse: "I ain't had no time to be tyin' him up, Easy."

Rawlins: "What?"

Mouse (defensively):  "Look, you just said 'Don't shoot him, right?"

Rawlins: "That's right."

Mouse: "Well, I didn't. I just -- choked him."

Rawlins: "WHAT?!!!"

Mouse: "Well, how am I gonna help you out if I'm back here foolin' around with him now?" -- If you ain't want him killed, why'd you leave him with me?"

As Rawlins was told before, "All you got is your friends."

Don Cheadle has been first-rate in everything I've ever seen him in, but Mouse is my absolute favorite of his roles. He is what makes this movie worth seeking out.

Note: If you click the IMDB link for "Devil", you'll see they only rate it 6.5 out of a possible 10. With all due respect for the morons who so rated it - wrong, Wrong, WRONG!!!

Hunt it up and see for yourself.
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1 comment:

roadgeek said...

Thanks for the tip on the movie. The Easy Rawlins books are phenomenal. Mosley is a very talented author.

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