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Film / The Big Easy

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A 1987 comedic neo-noir crime thriller set in (where else?) New Orleans, directed by Jim McBride and starring Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin.

Remy McSwain (Quaid) is a mostly-honest cop investigating a series of gang killings; Anne Osborne (Barkin) is a special prosecutor for the district attorney on an anti-corruption campaign. They meet in the course of their work and quickly fall in love, but grapple over their different perspectives on justice. Meanwhile, those gang killings might not be gang killings after all, but something far more dangerous...

The film contains examples of:

  • The '80s: 1986, to be precise.
  • Artistic License – Geography: The scenes that show Remy and Anne, or anyone, having a nice smooth ride down the street. One of the most annoying realities of New Orleans is the utterly dilapidated roads/streets that will rattle your brain and knock your car tires out of alignment as you drive on them.
  • Artistic License – History: The murders in Storyville make a cool-sounding plot piece, but that area had become the Iberville Projects by the 1940s, and were so called from then on. Ironically, in reality around the time the film takes place, they were known to be one of the safer housing projects in New Orleans. Others such as Desire or Calliope were quite notorious, but did not come up in the movie.
  • Artistic License – Law: Mostly to demonstrate how loose the rules are in the South, but Remy investigates a crime scene while under investigation, which is certain to cause any evidence discovered to get thrown out. Not to mention his abbreviation of the Miranda Rights.
    Remy: An officer will be along to get you in a few minutes. If you so much as get your fingerprints on my car, they will kick your ass. Do you understand your rights?
  • As Himself: Judge Jim Garrison, who proceeds over Remy's trial.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Remy qualifies, being a bit of a prankster AND an effective police officer. Also, DeSoto and Dodge. Despite being comic relief for the majority of the movie, they are the primary pushers behind the conspiracy of detectives faking a gang war to steal drugs from the various criminal organizations.
  • The Big Easy: Naturally
  • Black Sheep: Remy's entire family are police officers... except one cousin, who is a fireman
  • The Cast Show Off: Several of the background songs were performed by Quaid.
  • Deep South: New Orleans, Louisiana.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: The movie lays out who the bad guys really are within the first fifteen minutes... if you are paying attention
  • Dirty Cop: Played with. As Roger Ebert put it, "[McSwain] is an honest cop in the ways that really count and a dishonest cop in small ways he has been able to rationalize." To Anne, who is campaigning against corruption, it looks a lot worse than it probably is. The real villains are also Dirty Cops, who have been using their position to steal and resell drugs
  • Dumb Blonde: Anne Osborne, the blonde love interest of the main character. She meets a semi-corrupt local cop and an obvious schmoozer like Remy McSwain, and immediately compromises her professionalism and falls for his childish come-ons, even after essentially being openly teased about it in front of Remy's coworkers who know all about him. This is an attorney sent to investigate police corruption and murders.
  • Establishing Shot: The opening sequence is an overhead shot of the canals and bayous leading to the Mississippi River, while Cajun zydeco music helps to drive home the point that this is a New Orleans movie.
  • Extended Disarming: Detective DeSoto, in an infamous sequence
    DeSoto: [after being relieved of two knives, a blackjack, brass knuckles, two revolvers, and a derringer] And if that don't work, I piss on 'em.
  • "Eureka!" Moment
    Anne: Where's the boat?
  • Fair Cop: Both Remy and Anne are both ridiculously attractive, and feel their chemistry immediately.
  • Girl Next Door: Anne Osborne, played by Ellen Barkin in her physical prime; definitely cute without being too sexy. Remy has to have her the second he sees her.
  • Happily Ever After: Remy and Anne settle their differences, solve the case, and get married.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Remy McSwain starts turning this way when Anne accuses him of “not being one of the good guys, but then Remy fully turns when he’s nearly run down by a car he identifies as an unmarked police car. Further solidified when his brother Bobby is shot.
  • Heroic BSoD: Remy when he realizes that not only is his future stepfather is behind The Conspiracy that shot his brother, but everything he taught him about being a cop in the Big Easy was false
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: Averted, although the movie has it's cake and eats it too by having a murder occur in a warehouse where the floats are stored and later having a band practicing for the parade.
    Bobby McSwain: Why are you wearing that get-up? Mardi Gras ain't til February.
  • It's Personal: Remy is pretty much a clown through most of the movie, and is flippant about alot of what goes on in the corrupt units of the infamous NOPD. He turns on them though, and gets serious about exposing the crimes in his department when his brother Bobby is shot in the street.
  • Love Redeems: It isn't until Anne shows him exactly how letting the little things slip have hurt him that Remy stops being a Dirty Cop and starts living up to his potential as a Good Cop
  • The Mafia: The investigative plot involves the police investigating a gang war between these guys and The Cartel.
  • Mistaken for Object of Affection: After a night of lovemaking, Anne mistakes Bobby McSwain for his brother Remy, coming up behind him and pinching his ass. The brothers aren't all that identical, but given that she had no reason to expect any other man in the house and her view of Bobby was mostly of his rear end as he bent to rummage through the fridge, it is perhaps an understandable mistake.
  • Mistaken from Behind: Anne sees Bobby McSwain rummaging through the fridge and mistakes him for his brother Remy, with embarrassing consequences. See Mistaken for Object of Affection, above.
    • And then again, when Bobby is wearing his brother's coat. This time, it's Dirty Cops who think it's Remy, shooting him.
  • Mob War: The driving conflict behind the story. Except not. The conflict is being manufactured by Dirty Cops, who are using the seized drugs to fill their retirement funds
  • Monochrome Casting: In a city known for its majority black population, widespread poverty and unemployment, all of the movie's main characters are middle to upper class White folks with good, secure careers.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: On their first date at Tipitina's, a fictional version of the real-life Chef Paul Prudhomme (played by Gailard Sartain) serves the main characters at their table.
  • Office Romance: Remy and Anne. There is zero effort to hide any of it. Anne is basically teased as the flavour of the week in front of Remy's whole police department. Rather realistic for New Orleans actually, as professionalism standards there are... let's just say different from most major cities.
  • Police Brutality: The way Remy handles 2 thieves in the French Quarter would likely not fly today.
  • Ragin' Cajun: Remy, full-bore: well beyond the point of being remotely realistic. You rarely if ever hear a Cajun accent or anyone speaking Creole in New Orleans. Dennis Quaid's campy performance in this film was lampooned, even by Quaid himself.
  • Retirony: Captain Jack Kellom was gonna retire on the New Year and marry Remy's mother. Too bad he Outlived His Usefulness to the rest of the Dirty Cops
  • The Savage South: Corruption, racial tension and murder, set way on down in Nola.
  • Sexophone: Naturally, in an early Dennis Quaid movie.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: She's a straight-laced DA from out of state, he's a good cop who nonetheless bends the rules because that's how things are done in town. Their relationship couldn't be any other way.
  • Unusual Euphemism: The 'widows and orphans fund' is what the police call the regular bribes they're receiving.
  • Wedding Finale: For Remy and Anne, of course.