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One of Denzel Washington’s best hot thrillers leaves Netflix

This essay on Devil in a blue dress was originally posted in conjunction with the film’s release on Netflix. It has been updated and reposted as the film leaves Netflix on July 1st.

One of the greatest mystery and neo-noir films of the late 20th century is leaving Netflix soon, featuring one of Denzel Washington’s best roles. Devil in a blue dressCarl Franklin’s adaptation of Walter Mosley’s excellent 1990 novel, leaving the streaming service on July 1, offers 100 minutes of atmospheric excellence. It’s suspenseful when it needs to be, sexy when it should be, and always gripping.

Set in late 1940s Los Angeles, Denzel Washington plays Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, a recently discharged World War II veteran trying to make ends meet. When a friend introduces him to a private investigator who wants to give him a seemingly simple job – finding a missing woman – Easy becomes entangled in a web of conspiracy and deception, and finds himself in the crosshairs of some of the most powerful people in town.

Denzel Washington stands in a sleeveless top in front of a house in Devil in a Blue Dress

Image: Sony Pictures released

It’s a compelling story about post-war segregation in 1940s Los Angeles, and all of the film’s elements work together to paint a complete picture of the main character and the world she lives in. Devil in a blue dress fires at full speed and uses all the possibilities of cinema. Beautiful cinematography, period-accurate production design, an impressive film score, outstanding performances, sharp dialogues and a stormy narrative support and build on each other. There is nothing superfluous in Devil in a blue dress — every single decision contributes to creating a larger whole.

The film is particularly adept at showing that Washington’s main character in the noir film does not find his way in the world in the same way as white detectives in similar films – a fact that Franklin wanted to particularly highlight in his film.

“Obstacles are the key to drama,” Franklin told Slate in 2022 when the film was added to the Criterion Collection. “If it was a Sam Spade character, you know there would be one cop who was cool with him, and the other cop would want to break his neck. In the case of Easy, both cops want to break his neck.”

Jennifer Beals wears a light blue dress while sitting on a chair in

Image: Sony Pictures

Denzel Washington and Don Cheadle sit next to each other at a full table in “Devil in a Blue Dress”

Image: Sony Pictures

Easy is a challenging role – a smart, caring man who is simply trying to save his life, and who plays the role of a detective without being part of the law enforcement system. Washington makes the most of the potential of this role. He is confident, calculating, effortlessly cool and as sexy as ever. Washington has already been nominated for three Oscars and won one (for Fame) when this film came out, his star was still on the rise. It’s a joy to relive this part of his career.

Washington’s impressive performance is supported by excellent co-stars: Jennifer Beals delivers a particularly seductive performance, and Washington has an electrifying, immediate chemistry with her and with Lisa Nicole Carson. Tom Sizemore drips with filth as the devious private detective who hires Easy. And Don Cheadle steals the show in a supporting role as Easy’s chaotic friend Mouse. Mouse is the kind of supporting role that makes that possible, as the loudest, funniest guy in the room – and he’s won several critics’ awards for his performance.

Denzel Washington walks across a bridge at night as a car approaches in “Devil in a Blue Dress”

Image: Sony Pictures

While Devil in a blue dress Although the film received positive reviews, it was not a big box office success. Franklin attributed this in part to the unfortunate proximity of the release to the verdict in the OJ Simpson case, which he felt complicated America’s feelings toward a crime story allegedly involving a black man and a white woman. Franklin, who had previously directed the surprise hit low-budget crime thriller One wrong move starring Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton, never got around to making another Easy Rawlins film. He told Slate that Sony had bought the rights to the first three books in the series and hoped to turn them into a franchise. (At the time, there were four books in the series. By June 2024, Mosley will have published 16 of them.) But Devil in a blue dress‘ poor box office results derailed that plan. That’s a shame, because it’s easy to imagine how excellent a Washington/Franklin Easy Rawlins franchise could have been.

If you fall in love with this film too, Criterion’s current 4K release is worth buying—it shows off Tak Fujimoto’s moody cinematography and the film’s cast to great effect. But for now, watch the film on Netflix while you can. It’s among the best films the service has to offer.

Devil in a blue dress is leaving Netflix on July 1st.

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