While cleaning out my father-in-laws apartment, we came upon over 2000 VHS store bought videotapes. I grabbed a few tapes, and I’ll be watching them (on VHS) from time to time, letting you know what I thought.
Why is it that all the great film noir, private eye movies are set in Los Angeles? For a genre that is all about shadows and secrets, a town most famous for it’s perfect weather and constant sunshine is an odd choice.
Devil in a Blue Dress, one of the minor Denzel Washington movies, is sort of like a private eye origin story. Easy Rawlins (Washington) is not yet a gumshoe, but this is the story that shows you how he became one. The character of Easy Rawlins was the star of a series of books by Walter Mosely, of which DIABD is the first. They may have been hoping for a franchise for Denzel here, but alas, there just wasn’t a market for a mystery that was based more on racial barriers than, say, incest and water supply corruption.
Not to say that it was bad, cuz it wasn’t. Set in Los Angeles during the years after WWII, it is atmospheric and involving. It has all the hallmarks of a good gumshoe noir, like voiceover rife with simile and metaphor, dark secrets, labyrinthine plotting, and a femme fatale.
Plus, it’s got Tom Sizemore, second billed! When was the last time you saw that? It’s too bad he’s so fucked up now, because I love me some Tom Sizemore. I had the opportunity to talk to one of his co-stars from another movie recently, and was told that his drug problem was legendary long before it became the subject of a VH1 show.
Doesn’t matter- Sizemore kinda owned for a long time. Point Break, True Romance, Natural Born Killers, Heat, Saving Private Ryan… and he ain’t bad in DIABD either.
I miss Sizemore.
Anyway, the movie isn’t the best LA Gumshoe Noir, but it’s worth watching. And I think I’ll read some of Easy’s later mysteries, even if I won’t be watching Denzel act them out.
Brian’s Five Favorite LA Gumshoe Noir:
Not only is it the best of this little list, it is one of the best movies ever period. I may be writing more about this movie in a later column, so I won’t say too much more. But if you have never seen this, I envy you.
2. The Long Goodbye
The one directed by Robert Altman and starring Elliot Gould. I am not the biggest fan of Altman, but this one locked onto my wavelength and hit hard. The plot is secondary- in fact, I’m still not entirely sure what happened. What you do get is a slacker Phillip Marlowe, constantly smoking cigarettes but seeming stoned, bumming around a LA of pastels and white stucco, meeting some of the weirdest, most serenely dangerous people you’ve ever met.
If you’ve got 10 minutes and want a feel for this movie, check it out.
3. The Big Sleep
Bogart doing his thing. Before Chinatown, this was the movie most people associated with Noir.
4. Farewell, My Lovely
Robert Mitchum was probably the best LA gumshoe in terms of meeting all the criteria of said gumshoe. Weary voiceovers? You got em. Rumpled suits? Sure. “Seen it all” cynicism? In spades.
5. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad
Technically not a private eye movie (as Drebin was on Police Squad), but this was such a brilliant parody of what the LA Gumshoe was about that I had to include it. My favorite of the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker movies, and that includes Airplane.
This scene rules: