Until conventional plot contrivances begin to spoil the fun, The Big Easy is a snappy, sassy battle of the sexes in the guise of a melodrama about police corruption.
Buildup is quite engaging. In the classic screwball comedy tradition of opposites irresistibly attracting, brash New Orleans homicide detective Dennis Quaid puts the make on Ellen Barkin, a northern import assigned by the d.a.’s office to investigate possible illegal activities in the department.
Not necessarily the likeliest of couples, Quaid and Barkin bring great energy and an offbeat wired quality to their roles. Quaid’s character is always ‘on’, always performing for effect, during most of the action, and actor’s natural charm easily counterbalances character’s overbearing tendencies. Barkin is sexy and convincing as the initially uptight target of Quaid’s attentions.
Ned Beatty projects an appealing paternalism as the homicide chief, while top supporting turn comes from the Ridiculous Theater Co.’s Charles Ludlam as a very Tennessee Williams-ish defense attorney.