Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Film Review: THE BIG EASY (1986, Jim McBride)

Stars: 3.5 of 5.
Running Time:  minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew:  Dennis Quaid (ENEMY MINE, FAR FROM HEAVEN), Ellen Barkin (DOWN BY LAW, THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI), John Goodman (BARTON FINK, THE BIG LEBOWSKI), Ned Beatty (SUPERMAN, DELIVERANCE), Grace Zabriskie (TWIN PEAKS, WILD AT HEART), Marc Lawrence (MARATHON MAN, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN), Soloman Burke (Rock n' Roll Hall of Famer and "The Bishop of Soul").  Written by Daniel Petrie, Jr. (BEVERLY HILLS COP, TURNER & HOOCH).
Tag-line:  "Police ACTION at its best!"  (If ya know what I mean.)
Best one-liner:  "If I can't have you, can I have my gator?"

Sweet crawdad-lickin', bayou-sweatin', gator-chompin' lordy o mine!  It's time to kick off this three part series of Southern-Fried Sleaze-O-Rama!

What? You may be thinking.  THE BIG EASY is a fairly respected, medium-to-high-budgeted 80s Neo-Noir classic, or at least a near-classic.  It's got a respectable acting pedigree, Ebert loved the hell out of it, and for as much as we use the AFI for anything other than the occasional snide remark, they shortlisted this flick for their "Greatest American Mysteries" list and for their "Greatest American Love Stories" list.  So what are you thinking, placing this crawdad-lickin' gem in your series dedicated to unintentional camp and hilarious perversity?

Well, as much as I genuinely enjoy THE BIG EASY, I must spring something on you.  A pop quiz, to be exact.  Don't worry, though– there's only one question.  I want you to think hard, and tell me what the answer is, because honestly, I don't even know.  The question is this:

Q:  What is the most unexpectedly bizarre moment of Mardi Grassin', cajun-spicin' wackadoodle to appear in THE BIG EASY?

Is it, A:  Ned Beatty's spectacular get-up during a front-porchin' Crescent City shindig,
which includes a rather chic felt crawdad hat, a pair of suspenders, and a Tabasco™ sauce tee-shirt, which proudly (and accurately) labels Beatty as "HOT STUFF."

Is it, B:  Grace Zabriskie's bug-eyed, Creole-accented turn as Dennis Quaid's mother,
a matriarch so fierce that she can demolish old ladies with a soul-blasting Medusa glare:
It's a performance which probably inspired David Lynch, who would later cast her in WILD AT HEART as an accented hitwoman carrying out a job in New Orleans.

Is it, C:  John Goodman, looking nowhere near "skinny," but certainly younger and svelter than I've seen him this side of C.H.U.D.

Hint: it's not C.  C is pretty normal.

Is it, D:  The comically disturbing semi-implied, semi-explicit salad-tossing scene between Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin

which nearly made me spray my beer through my nose.  (And don't you worry, this series with make an extremely tasteful recurring motif of this particular proclivity.)  I feel as if this demands a new euphemism.  "The Bayou Tosser?"  "Mason Licksin'?"  "Jambalaya Jammin'?"

Is it, E:  Jambalaya Jammin'.  Nevermind, nevermind, THIS is "Jambalaya Jammin'":

Or, as longtime goosing aficionado Burt Reynolds might call it, "The Stroker Ace."

Or is it, F:  Dennis Quaid going undercover and on the lam as notable "Hall and Oates" member,  John Oates.

John Oates heartily approves.

And you really must watch the following clip, which truly functions best when viewed entirely out of context:

So there you have it– I have posed the question.  I pray that you, my valued readers, can provide me with the answer.  So here's hopin' you beat the heat, and stay tuned for more crawdad-lickin', Southern-fried Sleaze-o-rama!

–Sean Gill


Anonymous said...

And to think that all this time I've been avoiding this one, strictly BECAUSE OF its mainstream respectability, only to have it revealed here looking like nothing less than an absolute must-see! I got some watchin' to do! And let me also say that this post smacked me over the head with the stunning resemblance between John Oates and Lionel Richie, as well as left me dumbfounded at my never having realized it before, despite fancying myself a fan of both. Anyways, good stuff as always, thanks!

Sean Gill said...


Glad you enjoyed. This film's definitely a bona fide dixie doozy. And ha! to the Richie/Oates connection– I never thought about that either!

Charley said...