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Film / Devil in a Blue Dress

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A 1995 Neo-Noir mystery thriller directed by Carl Franklin and adapted from the novel of the same name by Walter Mosley, the first in his Easy Rawlins series. It stars Denzel Washington as Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins and Don Cheadle as Raymond "Mouse" Alexander.

Easy Rawlins is a WWII vet trying his best to live the American Dream in 1948 Los Angeles. Having just been laid off his job and struggling with mortgage payments, Easy's bartender friend, Joppy (Mel Winkler), points him to the shady DeWitt Albright (Tom Sizemore), who's looking to find a woman. Albright is looking for Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals), girlfriend of the mayoral candidate Todd Carter (Terry Kinney). Daphne's gone missing and Easy is paid quite well just for details on her location. As untrustworthy as Albright is, Easy needs the money and agrees to do it, getting caught up in a disastrous web of lies and crime.


  • Accidental Misnaming: A sign of Rawling's inexperience in private investigation is that he doesn't even get his target's name right. Coretta has to correct him.
  • Adaptational Badass: Easy comes off as a bit more proactive and capable in the film compared to the book, where he comes off as more of a Pinball Protagonist at times, with many of the clues he finds being handed to him. Somewhat justified in that he's not as experienced as he is in later books.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • In the book Easy needs to twist Carter's arm to get him to help clear his name from the murders. Carter offers to do it in the film with little prompting.
    • Mouse also comes across as a funnier and a potentially better person in the film than he does in the book. He's more of an Anti-Hero (albeit a darker one) in the film and a Villain Protagonist in the book.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Matthew Teran was renamed Matthew Terell for the film.
  • Affably Evil:
    • Albright toes the line swapping from polite to violent in the drop of the hat. It's notable that when threatening Easy at his house and demanding some alcohol, Easy mouthing off to him earns a hearty chuckle and an admiration at his guts.
    • Mouse is a trigger-happy criminal quick to shoot and slow to trust. He's also a real friendly guy once you get to know him, and most of his and Easy's mutual friends are on good terms with him. In his own way he's also looking out for Easy.
  • Ambiguously Brown: This is a plot point. Daphne is revealed to be mixed race, "a creole mother and white father" which lets her pass as white. She has a black half brother who's familial connection she hides.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: As fitting the Noir setting, everyone wears suits. Mouse is particularly impressive with his fancy style of dress and unrepentant ass kicking.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Implied
    Mouse: If you didn't want him dead, Easy; why did you leave him with me?
  • Bait the Dog: While Albright never really qualifies, being a suspicious character from the start, there are some disturbing revelations about certain characters.
    • Matthew Terell seems to be a rather affable family man running for mayor. He's suspicious, but not as suspect as Albright. It turns out that he was the one who hired Albright and set the plot into motion. Terell's pedophile and Daphne found evidence against him. The kid he was acting paternal to was one of his victims.
    • Joppy at first seems to be a just a screw-up but well meaning enough. He sent Easy to Albright under the hope of helping him make some money even if Joppy himself was doing it as a self serving con. Then we learn that Coretta's brutal murder was his doing.
  • Corrupt Cop: The pair of racist cops who harass Easy, even beating him in interrogation. Easy knows they're not after the truth, just someone to convict.
  • Eye Scream: Albright mentions that this is what he does to unreliable witnesses.
  • Fat Bastard: Terell is noticeably overweight, and as much as he tries to present himself as a nice enough guy, there's a definite sliminess to him.
  • Gunpoint Banter: Averted; Easy nearly gets his head blown off when he sticks his head up to answer Albright.
  • Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Mouse, unhinged, trigger-happy, and damn fun to watch.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: A variation; when Terrell's driver asks Easy to step in the car (to talk to Terrell), and Easy - who's just come from being beaten up by the police at the station - understandably hesitates, the driver says "If he (Terrell) wanted to hurt you, he would have done so already."
  • Interrogation by Vandalism: Easy pounds on Joppy's beloved marble countertop to force him to start talking.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch:
    • When a group of racists are threatening Easy, Albright shows up, and humiliates the leader before threatening to blow his head open with a gun. It establishes that Albright is definitely an unsavory man, but via an Asshole Victim.
    • Mouse's murder of Joppy may be this. He strangled them while they were defenseless and admits that he did it because he didn't want to take the time to tie them up and it was easier that way. However in a previous scene Mouse learning that Joppy killed Coretta, a woman he was friendly with, made him try and kill them; so going through with it may have been Pay Evil unto Evil.
    • Mouse's murder of Albright comes off as one. Sure they'd been in a gunfight, but Mouse puts a bullet through their lungs and leaves them on the ground gasping for breath and dying rather painfully. Instead of finishing him off, Mouse just stands by and admires his handiwork; he didn't have a personal reason for any of that, it's just how Mouse is.
  • The Lancer: During the final act, Mouse comes into the picture to back up Easy and play off of him. Easy's morally upright and thinks things through, Mouse resorts to violence really quickly and tends to shoot first.
  • Pet the Dog: When all's said and done, Mouse get's paid the full amount and basically forces Easy to take his share of the cut (which is half). Mouse reasons that Easy would be too righteous and try to give it all back had Daphne given it. He does try to later on, but she was gone by that point.
  • Small Role, Big Impact:
    • Terrell only has three scenes, the third being a flashback to the first, and he only speaks in the first. His presence as Carter's opponent means that he's got a big position behind the scenes and he's actually behind the entire thing, being the one who hired Albright and set the events in motion.
    • Frank only appears to confront Easy at his house before Mouse scares him off. Frank's importance to the plot is much greater, as he's the one who was hiding Daphne and him being her brother was part of the reveal that she was mixed race.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • Frank is killed in the book, whilst in the movie he and Daphne leave town together.
    • Matthew Teran is killed in the books by Daphne but Matthew Terell survives the movie though he seems to have been arrested.
  • Trespassing to Talk: "Easy" Rawlins is furious when DeWitt Albright and his thugs do this, as he's very proud of his house.
  • True Blue Femininity: Averted; Daphne is no innocent as the title makes clear, though whether she's a true Femme Fatale is debatable. She's certainly well aware of her attractiveness to men however, and doesn't hesitate to use it to her advantage.
  • With Friends Like These...: Easy keeps untrustworthy company. Coretta makes him buy bad information from her. Joppy sets him up with Albright all the while using him to throw Albright off track. Mouse is just unstable but oddly he's one of the only trustworthy friends Easy has. Easy ends up pondering the trope at the end of the movie.
    Easy Rawlins: If you got a friend that you know does bad things, I mean real bad things, and you still keep him as a friend even though you know what he's like, do you think that's wrong?
    Degan Odell: All you got is your friends.