Carl Franklin’s “Devil in a Blue Dress” is one of those movies you let sit in your box of antique films and watch every few years. It packs everything into one film: action, mystery, reality, comedy and love. From the beginning until the very end, the movie keeps us watching, something difficult to do with films made over a quarter of a century ago.
The movie starts by painting the picture of a very neat Black man, who owns a well-kept house in an all-Black neighborhood. The setting also seems to start off in a majority Black town. Denzel Washington plays the character of Easy Rawlins, a seemingly normal, upstanding man. Though he has just been let go from his job, the movie doesn’t paint him as merely an impoverished Black person. Instead, the movie gives Easy dignity. Black men owning property is not something America wanted to portray very often in the history of African-American men in film.
Although the film makes a statement about the race and societal issues African-
Americans were facing during that time, the movie did not focus the entire plot and details around them.
Throughout the movie, Easy demands respect from everyone he comes in contact with, but he doesn’t do it because he is Black; he does it because he is simply a man. Even when Dewitt Albright, a crooked mobster, spouts off racial slurs, Easy pays no attention to it. I think the beginning of the movie set the tone that the film is about race, but is not consumed by it.
My favorite character in the entire movie was Mouse. He was the exciting burst of violence the story needed, and he really embodied his role. While the movie works to paint him as a psychopathic killer, I only see him as a loyal friend. Being that he is Easy’s friend from back home and from the war they served in together, I felt like the film made a subliminal comment on war veterans when they finally come home.
One of my favorite scenes with Mouse is at the end of the movie when he is hugging Easy. He tells him how he split his half of the money from Daphne, the girl they are trying to save, because he knew Easy was too good of a person to take it from her. This signaled real friendship, and it ruled out the idea that they were only friends because of the money they could acquire together.
I would have to say my least favorite character in the movie was Corretta James. I will add that she played her role very well, but I just hated her role. I don’t understand why she kept pressing Easy to sleep with her while his friend, her husband, was in the next room. You would think it would be Joppy, because he betrayed one of his good friends, but I had a feeling from the beginning he was no good.
After Easy sleeps with Corretta, I start to question whether Easy is actually a good guy, because it shows he is willing to do whatever for money. Then, I realize Easy is, indeed, a good guy, and he is trying to fight off seemingly inevitable tragic downfalls. However, there is one question the movie leaves me hanging with: why does Easy save Daphne? Is it because she offered him such a huge lump sum of money, or does he do it because he is a hero?
The love aspect of the film was a peculiar one because, for the majority of the movie, I was scared for anyone to uncover Daphne and her secret because everyone who seems to say they love her is out to either hide or kill her. The movie paints the picture that she is not loved anywhere.
However, Todd’s love for Daphne begins to unfold when Easy begins to realize more and more of what is going on. Until then, viewers only see Daphne as a runaway cheater.
I would argue the real love story is not between Daphne and Todd, but rather, is most prevalent in the relationship with her younger brother, Frank.
The danger she puts herself in to protect him is life threatening, but she does that instead of cutting him off and acting as though he doesn’t exist.
Movies like this, which sprinkle problematic issues throughout, catch people’s attention more than movies that come right out and talk about injustices against race. They convey those hidden or unspoken issues to bigger audiences. I wish we could have more films like this one in 2021.