The Big Easy

Coinciding with the Film Center’s Jim McBride retrospective (whose most provocative program, on Thursday, August 20, combined the flaky sex comedy Hot Times and a brilliant Twilight Zone episode about Elvis, The Once and Future King) is the release of McBride’s least personal and most commercial movie to date. Rewriting a hackneyed crooked-cop story by Beverly Hill Cop’s Daniel Petrie Jr., he gets tense, sexy performances from Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin and makes the most of his New Orleans locations. But as in some Cajun cooking, it’s the spices rather than the meat that imparts the essential McBride flavor: offbeat secondary casting (the late, great Charles Ludlam’s eye-rolling defense attorney) and a use of props ranging from the surreal (Mardi Gras floats in a warehouse) to the homey (Quaid’s squeaking gator doll). (Old Orchard, River Oaks, Water Tower)

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