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The Big Easy

Director: Jim McBride

U.S.A.| 1986. Colour. 101 min.


‘The Big Easy’ is a nickname for New Orleans, and rarely has the city’s rich cultural mix and freewheeling sense of morality been used to better effect than in director Jim McBride’s sassy battle-of-the-sexes comedy masquerading as a cop thriller. Dennis Quaid plays an amoral but charming police lieutenant whose complacency is challenged by the appearance of a straight-laced female prosecutor (Ellen Barkin) sent in to investigate police corruption. The brazen cop immediately sets about seducing the woman by taking her to colourful, Cajun-flavoured restaurants and clubs. Borrowing liberally from the classic screwball comedies, especially those directed by Howard Hawks, McBride places the emphasis on fast pacing and character development rather than on plot. Quaid and Barkin make very sexy sparring partners, and McBride directs at a snappy pace that’s perfectly in synch with a wonderful soundtrack of Cajun music. The whole film is staged as a kind of dance of seduction, during which the brash cop has to tighten up his act and the uptight prosecutor has to (literally ) let her hair down.

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