Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Take it Easy

I spent this past weekend doing a whole lot of nothing. And in between doing nothing, I popped in my DVD of THE BIG EASY. And god damn, I forgot how great that movie is.

It came out in 1987, was directed by Jim McBride, and tells the story of Lt. Remy McSwain, whose investigation of a mob war is complicated by Assistant DA Anne Osborne, who's investigating the entire precinct on corruption charges.

Remy's played by Dennis Quaid, and while I really enjoyed Taylor Kitsch's portrayal of Gambit in X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, a better pick would've been to yank Dennis Quaid out of 1987 and use him. With his Cajun accent and his overflowing charm, it's no great leap to see that Chris Claremont was probably inspired by Quaid's character in this movie, and used him as the basis for Gambit.

And I don't blame him. Quaid is just fantastic. His character is admittedly corrupt, but only around the edges. He takes advantage of the "perks," as he calls them (free meals, parking wherever he wants, etc.). But he's a smart investigator, and he's genuinely smitten with Anne Osborne. And it's easy to see why. As played by Ellen Barkin, Anne is smart and likable and has this sexy vulnerability that seems remarkably genuine.

Their first sex scene is one of the best I've ever seen, simply because of the awkwardness involved. These are two people you genuinely like, and are rooting for. It's also interesting to note how early in the movie they hook up. It's not something they build towards until the final act. It happens pretty early, and the rest of the movie is spent trying to figure out -- or even if -- they're going to be together in light of everything that's going on around them.

When I write stories, I sometimes get too bogged down in the plot. I want the mystery to be compelling, I want the twists to be surprising, etc. And those are good instincts, of course. But the best plot in the world will be utterly uninvolving if it's not inhabited by engaging characters. And nowhere is that lesson more evident than in THE BIG EASY. It's got a good plot, don't get me wrong. But the plot isn't what keeps you involved -- it's the characters.

If you've never this movie, do yourself a big favor and check it out. You won't be sorry.