Criminal Movies is participating in a series called Scenes of the Crime by Furious Cinema. For my piece, I've chosen the best Dennis Quaid movie ever, in my opinion, 1986's The Big Easy.
Dennis is Remy McSwain, a New Orleans police detective who is investigating the murder of a local mobster. As he unravels the mystery, he suspects that some fellow officers may be behind the killing. His work has him crossing paths with Anne Osborne, played by Ellen Barkin, a district attorney who is charged with rooting out police corruption. As they work the case together, she witnesses Remy participate in some rather unorthodox behavior like free meals and coffee, small things that lead her to accuse him of being on the take.
Remy is all smooth Cajun charm, laughing off her suspicions, telling her that "...this is way things work down in the Big Easy, cher." To him, the son of a cop, free meals, a gift every now and again, is all part of business as usual for the NOPD. He sees nothing wrong with a little gratuity here and there. After all the boys in blue put their lives on the line for the citizens every day. It's just the way the people of New Orleans show their gratitude.
Remy keeps trying to charm Anne into coming around to his way of thinking even as he finds damning evidence of bigger, more insidious corruption. Anne grows more suspicious of Remy and his fellow cops, though, and when Remy is caught accepting a bribe during an Internal Affairs sting, she is forced to prosecute him. Her tentative trust in him is now shattered.
The blue line stands and evidence disappears, clearing Remy and humiliating Anne. After his sudden acquittal, Remy becomes disillusioned, realizing
his fellow officers, his own father included, really are committing crimes. He knows he has to stop them if he is ever going to live with himself and remain a cop.
The script by Daniel Petrie, Jr. is amazing and astute. He sets up an intriguing, thriller-type mystery, that draws the audience in and holds them hostage. Remy and Anne are strong protagonists whose visions are absolute. Remy grew up in the system, this is his world and he sees nothing wrong. He is a cop and for him being a cop is not just about the justice, it's about the respect of the people. Anne is unswerving in her vision of black and white, right and wrong. The chemistry between Quaid and Barkin is so volatile, they sizzle in their scenes together, incinerating the screen. The supporting cast is beyond magnificent and includes John Goodman, Ned Beatty, Grace Zabriskie, and the late great R&B singer Solomon Burke as mobster Daddy Mention.
This movie is ripe with atmosphere, the city of New Orleans a supporting character herself. Director Jim McBride takes us into the Big Easy from the colorful streets to Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi Delta and the bayou. The scenes are steeped in Nawlins style. The score by composer Brad Fiedel is pure delta jazz and blues with lots of horns and zydeco beats. Big Easy's soundtrack features gospel, zydeco, cajun and R&B music. Performers include Professor Longhair, Aaron Neville and the Neville Brothers, Beausoleil, The Dixie Cups and a piece by Dennis Quaid. He wrote and performed the song "Closer to You" in the film.
I cannot say enough about this picture. It gets me every time I watch it and I highly recommend seeing it if you get the chance. Or pulling it out if you haven't watched in a very long time.