The Big Easy
- Dennis Quaid as Remy McSwain
- Ellen Barkin as Anne Osborne
- Ned Beatty as Captain Jack Kellom
- John Goodman as Detective Andre
- Grace Zabriskie as Mama
A hot and spicy crime drama that gains a lot from the New Orleans setting, The Big Easy scores big points thanks to its host of idiosyncratic characters and sexy romance at play in a tasty slice of gumbo.
Remy McSwain is a laid-back police lieutenant in New Orleans who along with Captain and good family friend Jack Kellom, discover the body of a local mobster while on the job. It is thought that the slaying is part of a gang war brewing between two rival parties. Arriving later is assistant District Attorney Anne Osborne, who is there to take a look at the killing and also prominently investigate police corruption. This poses a problem for Remy, as while he’s a good enough guy he has been known to look the other way and take bribes. He attempts to charm the law-abiding Anne, which appears to work as she tangles with her feelings about the case and Remy. As more murders from both gang factions take place and the drug operations and police corruption angle hots up, it is up to the to discover something. This isn’t going to be easy as they are frequently at odds over moral conduct. Though antagonistic over each other’s methods and fighting undeniable attraction, Remy and Anne dig into the murders and corruption, uncovering a big can of worms in the process that goes a lot higher than imagined.
Jim McBride’s full-blooded and breezy direction is the ideal thing that is needed in a film like this one. He makes it a dynamic and alternately playful movie that knows how to steam things up and use the surroundings of New Orleans to their full potential. New Orleans itself becomes a character in the story; a hotbed of colourful people and seamy passions, dashed with dark intrigue and a compelling glamour. There’s something special about New Orleans that adds immeasurably to the essence and ambience of this drama and can’t be faulted in the slightest. The Big Easy would never have had the same effectiveness if the setting was different, because the whole thing feels pretty authentic and full of vigor. The aura of the place hangs over The Big Easy like a glistening canopy. It does become a little broad at various intervals in the story that can induce a few instances of irritation, but The Big Easy keeps hold of you with the quickness of it all and the feisty romance. The film is at its most persuasive and enjoyable when it focuses on the clash between Remy and Anne, which in turn leads to sexual fireworks that are complicated by their differing attitudes and the possibility of danger with every step they take. The sassy script ensures a quality rapport and an amusing back and forth is created, bringing humour into the drama that actually benefits rather than distracts from the overall crime narrative. Sometimes crime dramas can be overly solemn, but The Big Easy takes another route and works out splendidly. It also fleshes out characters that are kooky and full of quirkiness, particularly Remy whose extrovert charms and mile wide grin are never far from view when being his ever so corrupt but devilishly likable self. The Big Easy often gets mentioned as a thriller and while I can see that in stretches of the film( such as a tense car chase and explosive last act), crime drama with healthy overtones of romance is probably how I’d describe it and I love that it’s that very thing. It flips between darkness in the crime and corruption to red-hot potential romance between without really missing a beat as it goes on its exciting way. A Cajun soundtrack and subsequent score provide the fire for which this cauldron of mixtures is rested on, providing some outstanding moments of music to echo the lively happenings.
Dennis Quaid is superb as the ever so corrupt but wholly enjoyable Remy, whose alligator smile and wild ways are more than a little endearing in an amusing fashion. Remy may be a very crooked guy who eventually begins to view how deep he’s in, but Quaid morphs him into an ingratiating charmer, who it is impossible to not to be taken in by, despite his foibles and many faults. Ellen Barkin matches Quaid with an equally excellent performance of the uptight Anne, whose usual adherence to rules is tested by a burgeoning attraction to Remy. The undecided and smouldering face of Barkin is employed exquisitely to showcase the moral dilemma she endures, tempered with a curious sense of carnality beneath the surface which the actress exudes gorgeously. Quaid and Barkin share a scintillating chemistry that is hot stuff from the moment they meet. I’m not kidding when I say their passion burns like fire in an extended form of foreplay, which is interrupted and comes up against barriers in a way that resembles a dance of emerging desire gaining power. You simply couldn’t have asked for anything better from the two stars, who ignite the screen as the total opposites in almost every way lock horns masterfully. Ned Beatty provides memorable support as the seemingly amiable Captain who Remy sees as something of a father figure, while John Goodman is fun as a lazy yet joking detective. One should also look out for Grace Zabriskie as Remy’s withering and quick-witted mother.
With lashings of local flavour and unique atmosphere that it seems only New Orleans can offer, The Big Easy is a fun, sexy and thoroughly entertaining crime drama, that soars essentially from the sultry chemistry of the leads and the eventful, lively direction.