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Blu-Ray Review: Kino Lorber’s The Big Easy (KL Studio Classics) 

The Big Easy

Sweaty thriller The Big Easy is not your usual police procedural leveled up by the heated chemistry between Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin. New to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber

The Film 

There were a few ‘off-limits’ films (including the film Off Limits) to me during the 1980s and 1990s.  Amongst them was The Big Easy.  So, of course, I did everything in my power to see it. Once I did (thanks Greg!), I didn’t understand what the big deal was and why my parents didn’t let me watch it.  It’s only in retrospect that I now understand why they didn’t want me to see the film.  The Big Easy is more sensuously adult than any 10-year-old should see.  

There is nothing easy about what The Big Easy gets right. The film feels like an extension of the City of New Orleans, muggy, overwrought, and filled with the kind of sleaze people love to watch but not be involved in. Director Jim McBride adroitly allows stars Barkin and Quaid the room to fog up the lens with their steamy chemistry.  The bedroom liaisons are as intricately and sensuously staged as the action set pieces are staged for maximum impact.  

Remy McSwain (McQuaid) is your average New Orleans Detective Lt on a routine mob killing with Assistant DA Anne Osborne (Barkin) shows up. Remy wants nothing more than to entangle himself in the ADA’s life. Though he gets more than he bargains for as they not only uncover drug dealing, and corruption – beyond the normal apple stealing/glad-handing of the time – but a hard-to-resist attraction to Anne may be more than he can deal with. 

The Big Easy understands the movie it is. Daniel Petrie Jr script is smart enough to know this type of story had been done about 375 times on the big screen already. Rather than continue that tradition, the script and McBride’s direction focus on Remy and Anne and their courtship and flirtatious encounters that border on harassment (at least in today’s eyes, back in ‘86 this I guess was considered flirting).  That focus creates such a distinct type of police procedural that is half steeped in the sexual thriller genre and half in the buddy cop genre. The result is something that often loses its procedural thread in favor of this romance that far exceeds anything else. 

When The Big Easy does indeed push those procedural aspects to the forefront, the movie soars. Not because the plot is elevated from the standard issue, but because we have come to care about Remy and Anne and what happens to them and their relationship. It’s what separates The Big Easy from the other films and makes for a surprising, delightful experience.

The Transfer

The 2021 HD Master by Lionsgate is a fine example of upgrading what was once a troubling murky transfer to a new version showing off the sharpness and beauty of the image while retaining those shot on 35mm origins.  That is to say that the image is a sharp handsome representation of the original 35mm shot film, keeping all of the grain structure, and color inherent within but not being overly DNR’ed to death (the dreaded digitally cleaned-up image that erases all of the perceived imperfections like film grain or any character the photochemical process). The Big Easy has never looked better than it does on this Blu-Ray release!! 

The Extras

  • Audio Commentary by Director Jim McBride, Moderated by Filmmaker Douglas Hosdale
  • Theatrical Trailer

The all-new Audio Commentary by Director Jim McBride, Moderated by Filmmaker Douglas Hosdale begins with how McBride got involved with the project – including it started as a project about Chicago Police Corruption and his changing the setting to New Orleans.  Some of the other details include the casting process – specifically Dennis Quaid; the troubles in getting to cast Ellen Barkin; the chemistry of the leads and how McBride built that, the influence of His Girl Friday; the lack of rehearsal but on-set walk-thru – and the multiple takes to ensure the spec and rhythm were right; the work of cinematographer Alfonso Beato; the location work and set design and which were which – which leads to a discussion of working with production designer Jeannine Oppewall; the TV show based on the film; the title change – how Denis Quaid was responsible for it; working on the various sex scenes, with the actors and how it was developed and when they shot them; Dennis Quaid singles that appear in the film – and a larger discussion about the soundtrack; the involvement with the NO Police department – and their willingness to work with them even on the corruption angle of the story; the budget and production schedule; and much more.  McBride, with Hosdale’s prompting and discussion, delivers a wonderful and informative commentary track.  

Rounding out the special features are trailers for The Big Easy (2:04); D.O.A. (1:49); The Hunter (3:15); I, The Jury (1:54); F/X (2:36); No Mercy (2:13) 

The Final Thought 

The Big Easy is worth re-assessment as the heat from Quaid and Barkin is enough to burn a barn down during rainy season.  Highest Possible Recommendations!

Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray edition of The Big Easy is out now.

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