Denzel Washington turns up the heat as a L.A. private eye in this steamy mystery from executive producers Jonathan Demme and Edward Saxon and director Carl Franklin. Washington stars as Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins, a decorated war hero who returns home to the segregation of post-war America. Forced to accept an under-the-table job finding a missing socialite, Easy is caught between the white power elite and the vibrant black community of Central Avenue. And as soon as Easy and his trigger-happy friend Mouse (Don Cheadle, in a star-making performance) find the mysterious Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals), trouble follows.
Despite rave reviews as one of the most stylish and intelligent detective pictures in a number of years, this 1995 adaptation of Walter Mosley's novel never found a mass audience. Too bad, because Carl Franklin's film is nearly perfect in every way, from its rich, shadowy look to its depiction of life in post-World War II black America (L.A.-style) to the acting of Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, and others. Washington plays Easy Rawlins, an aircraft factory worker who is laid off only to find his true calling: as a private eye, albeit an unlicensed one. Hired to find a missing woman, he becomes entangled in a complex but satisfying case involving sex, corruption, racism, and of course money. Top-notch from top to bottom--and Cheadle is dangerously funny as Easy's best friend, a killer named Mouse. --Marshall Fine