Devil in a Blue Dress (Franklin, 1995)

It’s a pleasure re-discovering Carl Franklin’s meaty Neo-noir Devil in a Blue Dress, a 1940’s tale of striking substance and style starring a morally conflicted Denzel Washington. As the desperate and quick-witted Easy Rawlins, Washington eases through scenes with a pure and earned sense of smooth, slyly hiding an ere of vulnerability. Rawlins, an ex-serviceman who gets mixed up in a dirty business of corruption and murder, isn’t broken from the Sam Spade mold. Instead, he’s an everyman who starts from scratch and rapidly learns the rules of the Noir world, making mistakes and enemies along the way. Franklin combines a genuine love for Noir style with an astute subversion concerning the racial divide in the genre. The ending of Devil in the Blue Dress speaks volumes about the film’s intent – a sense of place defines both our existence and art, for better or worse. Franklin and Washington usher in a new and fascinating slant on one of the great film movements, connecting the fatalism of Noir with a biting critique of racism and identity.

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