The Mighty Quinn (1989)

After a couple of hard-hitting Oscar contenders, it felt like time to take a step back and watch something a bit more fun. While scrolling through Hulu, I stumbled upon The Mighty Quinn. As a long time fan of Denzel Washington, this one was a no-brainer…a must see. One of his films I had yet to view.

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The Mighty Quinn, directed by Carl Schenkel, was released in 1989. It stars Denzel Washington as Xavier Quinn, the Chief of Police on an island in the Caribbean (it was shot in Jamaica but I can’t recall if they ever definitively specify that’s the location). He is charged with “solving” the murder of a local mogul and hotel owner. It seems, however, that Governor Chalk (played by Norman Beaton) has already decided to finger Maubee. Maubee, played by Robert Townsend, is a local legend, petty thief, and childhood friend of Quinn. Quinn becomes immediately suspicious and seeks to defy the power structure that he previously climbed the ladder of to become Chief. Facing obstacles at home and in the line of duty, he must decide whether to pursue his hunches or play along. This conflict leads to a thrilling, if not unnecessarily over the top, final showdown.

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One of the primary issues one must face when viewing the film is the fact that the lead actors (including a guest appearance by the legendary Esther Rolle) are not from the Caribbean. Thus, they all co-opt accents. This is always a tricky situation. However, at least on the part of Denzel Washington, he has always been noted for bringing the utmost respect and mastery to the roles he plays. Knowing that and seeing throughout the film that he does not exaggerate his accent made me more comfortable with the decision. That being said, it’s understandable that some would take issue with the choice. I can see arguments on both ends of the spectrum.

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The biggest problem I had was the ending. While some elements of it were satisfying, I had an overall feeling that it went above and beyond what was necessary for executing the plots finale. I will leave it at that to avoid any spoilers, those interested will have to view it for themselves and be their own judge.

Though not perfect, it was a fun film to watch. It often featured good use of music, utilizing a reggae version of Bob Dylan’s Quinn The Eskimo (Mighty Quinn) as its title track. Furthermore, it was able to follow some of the traditional elements of a noir with a few interesting twists. Denzel Washington, of course, exemplified the usual talent and skill he brings to any film. There was also an interesting political element to the film, after it is discovered that the murdered mogul was part of a secret plot by the President of the United State’s to fund anti-communist revolutionaries without congresses approval. This drama progressively escalates and compounds to the film’s conclusion.

I would recommend this film first and foremost for fans, like myself, of Denzel Washington. He definitely does not disappoint. Secondly, to those interested in the development of the noir genre over time, The Mighty Quinn is interesting to view in light of its predecessors. Imperfect as it may be, it’s still a light and easy watch. Anyone with a Hulu subscription may also consider it.

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