The Denzel Washington ’90s Crime Thriller On Streaming Is A Secret Classic

By Charlene Badasie | Published

The 1995 American neo-noir mystery-thriller Devil in a Blue Dress is streaming on Hulu. Directed by Carl Franklin, the story is based on Walter Mosley’s 1990 novel of the same name. The movie features Denzel Washington in the lead role as Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins – a World War II veteran turned private investigator.

Los Angeles In The 1940s

Devil in a Blue Dress is set in Los Angeles in 1948, where Easy Rawlins struggles to make ends meet. A mysterious white man named Mr. Albright (Tom Sizemore) offers Easy $100 to locate Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals), a missing woman who frequents jazz clubs in the black community. As Easy delves into the investigation, he becomes entangled in a web of corruption, murder, and racial tension.

As Easy embarks on his investigation, he realizes that Daphne Monet’s disappearance has political ramifications. His exploration of the vibrant but treacherous Central Avenue jazz scene leads Easy to illegal clubs. It also introduces him to characters like Junior Fornay, the bouncer with a penchant for ejecting white patrons.

Devil in a Blue Dress does not shy away from addressing racial dynamics, with Easy’s encounters reflecting the pervasive racism of the era. The plot thickens when Coretta James, a confidant of Daphne, disappears. Political intrigue becomes a central theme as Easy discovers the connection between Daphne and mayoral candidate Matthew Terell.

Don Cheadle Also Stars In The Movie

Devil in a Blue Dress is filled with themes of betrayal and loyalty when Easy’s friend Mouse (Don Cheadle) becomes a key player in the mystery. The film’s climax sees Easy confronting the perpetrators, unraveling the layers of deception, and ultimately rescuing Daphne. The resolution brings closure to the mystery but leaves scars on the characters involved.

How The Film Performed

Devil in a Blue Dress received positive reviews from critics and audiences. Denzel Washington’s performance as Easy Rawlins was widely praised for its depth and authenticity. The film was appreciated for its period setting, atmospheric cinematography, and engaging mystery plot. Despite positive reviews, the film did not perform exceptionally well at the box office.

It earned around $22 million worldwide against a budget of $27 million. Denzel Washington has expressed his fondness for his Devil in a Blue Dress character and has mentioned that it is one of his favorite roles. The film also marked the beginning of Don Cheadle’s rise to prominence in Hollywood.

A Love Scene Was Cut Out

Carl Franklin served as writer and director for Devil in a Blue Dress due to his admiration for Walter Mosley’s novel. Mosley, serving as an associate producer, contributed to the adaptation. Franklin’s appreciation for the source material went beyond the conventional detective narrative, highlighting Mosley’s ability to elevate an ordinary character into a compelling detective.

While editing Devil in a Blue Dress, Franklin cut a passionate love scene between Jennifer Beals and Denzel Washington. He believed that the scene, while intense, contributed little to the storytelling. Don Cheadle initially hesitated to audition for the role of Mouse, expressing concerns that he might be too young for the character.

Most Devil in a Blue Dress was shot in Los Angeles, California. The scene where Easy Rawlins encounters trouble with local youths on the pier was filmed at the Malibu pier in California. Other iconic Los Angeles locations featured in the film include the Griffith Park Observatory and the famous Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard.

Devil In A Blue Dress Was Well Recognized During Award Season

Devil in a Blue Dress earned recognition in the awards circuit, solidifying its impact on the film industry. At the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards in 1995, Don Cheadle’s performance earned him the Best Supporting Actor accolade. The National Society of Film Critics Awards in 1996 brought further acclaim to the movie.

Tak Fujimoto’s exceptional cinematography was acknowledged with the Best Cinematography award, while Don Cheadle once again received praise for Best Supporting Actor. While Devil in a Blue Dress didn’t secure wins in other prestigious competitions, it received several nominations that underscore its critical acclaim.

Director Carl Franklin was nominated for the Golden Seashell Award at the San Sebastian International Film Festival in 1995. The Edgar Allan Poe Award recognized Devil in a Blue Dress as a contender for Best Motion Picture in 1996. The Image Awards in 1996 saw multiple nominations, including Outstanding Motion Picture and Outstanding Soundtrack Album.

Devil In A Blue Dress Is Streaming On Hulu

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Devil in a Blue Dress is a well-received neo-noir film that successfully captures the essence of Walter Mosley’s novel. While it may not have been a huge box office success, it has earned a place as a respected entry in the neo-noir genre due to its strong performances, atmospheric setting, and engaging storyline.