It turns out that surviving on the battlefield is much easier than in postwar Los Angeles. World War II veteran Easy Rawlins has lost his job and may soon lose his roof over his head. So when he is offered to play the role of a private detective and find a mysterious beauty, Easy immediately agrees.
100 dollars for such a simple case is more than a bargain. However, dying for $100 was not part of his plans. The investigation leads Rawlins into the unpredictable world of big politics, where human life is not worth anything – he could not assume that the real war will start for him after the war.
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Los Angeles, 1944. Not a good time for a black guy who wants to achieve something more than a room in a cheap hostel, a bottle of 40-degree vodka, and a three-shift job where you don’t even get paid. In principle, America has long been an inhospitable place for any “colored” person who thinks he or she is better than a white person. But I digress. So the hero of our present story is simple black fellow – Easy Rawlins, who in spite of his simplicity has both character and pride, and that is why the character of Denzel Washington can say everything what he thinks about people around him. It is natural that this is not to everyone’s liking, and it is natural that soon the main character loses his job. But every cloud has a silver lining, and Rawlins’ old friend, the old barman, brings him in touch with a private detective who is trying to find the former senator’s mistress, and who pays him a hundred dollars to help in his search. And yes, a hundred dollars at that time was almost a fortune for a man who is splashing around at the social bottom, and so Easy Rawlins immediately agrees. In the end, it’s a small business, easy money, what could go wrong? Well maybe the search for the senator’s mistress will be overshadowed by the dead bodies of Easy’s friends and acquaintances who will be hanged on the protagonist? Yeah, I probably should have thought twice before taking this job…
So, we get a film that is unique in its genre, a film in the noir genre, where the main role is given not to an old white detective or a young cop, but to a simple and not very smart working man of African-American appearance. Oh yes, that’s right, this movie was made in 1995, and it was the original. I mean, you can hear the phrase very often – “Everything that is made here and now has already been made up somewhere and the scriptwriters can’t come up with anything new”. As you see, they can. And they can come up, not only by directors who shoot auteur movies and who are constrained in terms of money and actors, but people who make movies for the general audience. But enough of this idle speculation and it’s time to get to the point of the film.
So, the film tries to follow all the canons of the noir genre and that is both the film’s main advantage and its disadvantage. How so? I will now try to explain everything. So, there are over a dozen heroes who play an important role in the plot and if you watch the movie inattentively, you may get confused in this tangle of intrigues and conspiracies. It is undoubtedly a plus of the movie. The minus is that most of the supporting actors appear in the movie for less than five minutes of screen time and in such a short time slot the heroes simply do not have time to reveal themselves as personalities. There’s the bouncer who is connected with the subject of Easy’s search, as well as with his mistress, but here’s the trouble – the bouncer was present in the picture for only a couple of minutes and it’s good if he was able to say thirty words. And there’s another senatorial candidate who decides to play cat-and-mouse with Denzel Washington’s character and, hell, this senator is played by such a good actor as Marie Chaikin, but the movie gives him barely three minutes of screen time, and you really want to see this character more often. And so it is with every character. All of them are interesting, but this interest is caused by the fact that the viewer knows almost nothing about these characters, and not because these characters have complicated motivations and an equally complicated character. No, maybe it is, but then again, maybe it is all about the fact that we want to believe that we are facing really interesting characters who hide a lot of secrets, and not just characters that they didn’t bother to work through properly, and that is why the screenwriters put a lot of fog in which it would be easy to get lost.
Also, the atmosphere of those years is beautifully conveyed in the film, and the gloom and despair of that era literally oozes out of the screen. Yes, people go to private clubs, drink alcohol, laugh, make love and try to earn money, but behind all this there are broken destinies and shattered hopes. Complementing the unfunny picture of the musical accompaniment, which is saturated with a sense of loss and universal sorrow. Believe me, it is hard to describe it with words and you should just see and hear it, and if you hear it you are unlikely to forget it.
As for the protagonist of the picture played by Denzel Washington, the screenwriter, and at the same time the director of the picture did a trick with his ears, making the main character a man of the crowd. A simple guy who finds himself in a difficult situation and who has been forced to look for answers on his own hoping that he will manage to find the girl before the bandits do and not get caught by the cops themselves, who are looking for the hero for a murder he didn’t even commit. Yes, Easy Rawlins is not Denzel Washington’s best role, but it is one of the most natural, because his character is a little man who finds himself in the world of big money with no connections and support from outside, and that is why he tries to spin like a squirrel in a wheel just to survive.
To summarize, I want to say, that it is a good and qualitatively made film, which will be admired by those people who are not indifferent to the films about Prohibition era in America. As for people who are rather indifferent to films in noir genre, I think they can easily pass by, because this film will not tell them anything new.
Codec: HEVC / H.265 (75.1 Mb/s)
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
English: Dolby Digital 5.1
English: Dolby Digital 2.0