• Devil In A Blue Dress

    Released By: Twilight Time
    Released On: October 13, 2015
    Director: Carl Franklin
    Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals, Don Cheadle
    Year: 1995
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    The Movie:

    Huh. I stand corrected. After years of saying that I didn't like Denzel Washington in anything, that it was impossible to get a performance out of him that was anything except for who I believe Denzel actually is, Carl Franklin's Devil In A Blue Dress has proven me wrong. And while Denzel may not be venturing too far outside of the territory that he normally commits to in every role he's in, his performance in this wonderful film has caused me to reevaluate my original position.

    Set in post-war 1940's Los Angeles, the film centers around Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins (Denzel Washington), a Texas veteran who has relocated to sunny California in the hopes of finding a better life. And it certainly seems that he has, for a while, anyway...he's found a decent-paying job as a machinist, and does well enough to pay a mortgage on his very own home, uncommon for Black folks in that era. When he loses his job for refusing to work ridiculous amounts of overtime not expected of the White workers, Easy finds himself searching unsuccessfully for employment, with foreclosure on his home rapidly approaching.

    A light of hope appears courtesy of his bartender friend Joppy, who introduces Easy to DeWitt Albright, a shady fellow looking to track somebody down. Despite his reservations, Easy's financial woes sway his judgement into taking the money and the task of finding one Daphne Monet, a White woman who prefers the company of men outside of her race...very controversial for the time. Daphne isn't your regular run-of-the-mill woman, either; she's the love interest of a mayoral candidate who has dropped out of the race until she's located. Easy uses his familiarity with his associates and the locations of smoky jazz clubs to follow Daphne's trail, leading to a mean mofo named Frank Green, more than a couple of corpses, and shocking political scandal...and with the police looking at him as a multiple murderer and some higher-ups in the food chain looking to keep him permanently quiet, it's going to take all of his skill and the brutality of some close friends to keep him alive to collect payment.

    Based on the book by Walter Mosley, Carl Franklin and Cinematographer Tak Fujimoto have done a stellar job at bringing Devil in a Blue Dress to film, with a beautiful aesthetic that perfectly captures (what I imagine to be, anyway) the era of 1940's Los Angeles. Every aspect of the film, every frame, leaps from the screen with detail, from old school milk deliveries in the bathroom to the blood smears on the interrogation room wall. Costuming, set dress...this film is a genuine work of art. The story is no less developed, with twists, turns and characters indicative of noir but surpassing the genre simultaneously, with nary a dull moment to be found, and tight, tight pacing that speeds it along at a pace that mirrors Easy's anxiety and anticipation with what's to come.

    Of course, the performances don't hurt, either. Washington is perfect for this role, and a supporting cast of Jennifer Beals, Tom Sizemore, Maury Chaykin, and an absolutely mind-blowing Don Cheadle (yes...Don Cheadle) pitch in to make Devil in a Blue Dress a wonderful film experience. The narrative device of Easy's character is reminiscent of Scorcese's Goodfellas, which is about as apt a comparison as I can draw while maintaining that it stands in a league of its own. Short in running time but not in stature, Devil in a Blue Dress is a Denzel Washington film that I recommend to anyone who hasn't seen it.


    Twilight Time brings Devil In A Blue Dress to blu-ray in an AVC-encoded 1.85:1 1080p transfer that looks stunning. Every aspect of this transfer is gorgeous, and that's the simplest way to put it, with wonderful contrast, and tons of detail that will not disappoint. There's no artifacting or blemishing to be seen here, and it does justice to such a beautiful looking film.

    The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track is equally as impressive, with impressive dynamics, and moderate but still very tasteful use of the surrounds and LFE. The track is lively and immersive without being overpowering or receiving the boombastic blockbuster treatment. Dialogue is clear and coherent at all times, and the score dances across the soundstage breezily, balanced well with the sound effects.

    Subtitles are included on this disc.

    A Trailer for the film and Twilight Time Catalog are included as extras, as is Don Cheadle's Screen Test (14:51). To not give any spoilers out, I will just say that Cheadle is a high point in the film, and the screen test is an interesting view after seeing the feature.

    As is the case with many other Twilight Time releases, the film is also viewable with an Isolated Score, and contains a booklet with essay notes from Julie Kirgo.

    Finally, a commentary with Director Carl Franklin is included. While there are occasional gaps, Franklin gets into a lot of detail about the film, such as locations, filming techniques, and the noir-ish elements of his movie.

    The Final Word:

    Not sure how this one flew under my radar for so long, but I'm glad that I got the chance to see it. An impressive flick gets a fantastic presentation from Twilight Time. Highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!