A widely neglected noir thriller, Devil In A Blue Dress ranks up there with such other noir classics as The Last Seduction, The Grifters, Stormy Monday and Blood Simple. Novelist Walter Mosely treads the same seedy territory of the Los Angeles underworld that Raymond Chandler’s gumshoe Phillip Marlowe inhabits, but Mosely’s L.A. is from a distinctly African-American point-of-view.
In Devil In A Blue Dress, Easy Rawlins (Denzel Washington), a World War II vet who just lost his job with an aircraft manufacturer, is offered easy money from “businessman” (read: gangster) DeWitt Albright (Tom Sizemore) to track down Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals), a mysterious and beautiful white woman with “a predilection for dark meat.” His impromptu gig as a private dick spirals him into an abyss of corrupt politicians and their closeted skeletons, a thuggish police force, gangland executions and the dark, sexy secrets of Daphne Monet. His investigations make Easy the prime suspect in a series of murders. Determined to exact revenge on those who framed him, Easy enlists his criminally-insane friend Mouse (Don Cheadle) to help doublecross the doublecrosses.
Director Carl Franklin habitually casts actors at the top of their game and has enough respect for their craft to let them play a scene out fully and completely to milk a moment for everything its worth. His unhurried approach to storytelling oxygenates the world in which the characters live, allowing the characters to breathe. Even in this tautly constructed thriller, moments are never rushed and suspense builds naturally.
Washington, Sizemore and Cheadle are particularly good--indeed, they are among the finest actors working today--but the entire cast of supporting players is fantastic.