Under bright skies and sandy beaches, paradise hides some ugly truths in The Mighty Quinn. Based on the A.H.Z. Carr novel Finding Maubee, Denzel Washington (Flight) brings his charismatic star power to the role of Xavier Quinn, the sheriff of a small Caribbean island caught up in a murder mystery involving his best friend. Petty crook Maubee (Robert Townsend, Hollywood Shuffle) is on the run for the alleged murder of millionaire resort owner Donald Pater (Bobby Ghisays, Club Paradise). Estranged from his wife Lola (Sheryl Lee Ralph, TV's Moesha) and an absentee father to his son, Quinn is about to find his life getting a bit more complicated as the mystery of the millionaire's murder slowly comes into focus in the witty, entertaining mystery-thriller, The Mighty Quinn.
It's unfair to say that Denzel Washington wasn't already a household name by the time 'The Mighty Quinn' was released in theaters in early 1989. After all, he'd already been nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role in 'Cry Freedom' and was a familiar face to the weekly television viewers of the medical drama 'St. Elsewhere'. But while Denzel had certainly proved by 1989 that he had acting chops, he hadn't quite yet proved he was marque movie star material. 'The Mighty Quinn' settled that question, even though it never got the attention or love at the box office it so richly deserved (in fact, the movie all but bombed).
The film is set on a never-identified Caribbean island (the movie was shot in Jamaica) and features Washington in the role of police chief Xavier Quinn, who soon becomes entangled in a murder mystery where all evidence points toward local petty thief Maubee (Robert Townsend), a man who has been a friend of Quinn's since childhood. A wealthy businessman has been found decapitated and pressure is being put on the police department to bring Maubee in, although Quinn suspects more is going on underneath the surface.
In addition to Washington and Townsend, the cast is full of familiar characters actors, including the talented M. Emmet Walsh (of whom Roger Ebert once proclaimed, "No movie with M. Emmet Walsh in a supporting role can be altogether bad."), James Fox, and Mimi Rogers. The Rogers and Fox roles are interesting (she plays the wife of the deceased, he plays the owner of the hotel where the deceased was found) as they start out seeming more important to the mystery than they actually prove to be in the end. It's one of the minor flaws of the movie, but that doesn't make their scenes with Washington any less fun to watch (the racial tension between Washington's character and Fox's is particularly palpable).
While Quinn's efforts to exonerate Maubee are the driving force of the storyline, there's so much more to love here, starting with the Quinn character himself. Most films wouldn't take time to explore their hero's personal life in a movie like this, nor would they make him such a flawed character. Xavier Quinn is not a perfect man. He's in a marriage that's struggling (his wife is played by Sheryl Lee Ralph), has a son he loves but doesn't pay enough attention to, and definitely has an eye for the ladies – including one (played by Maria McDonald) – who has eyes for him as well. Also of note is the wonderful music of the movie, which contains both soundtrack songs and on-film performances, not the least of which is Denzel singing a Blues song in one of the local bars.
The movie – perhaps because of the casting of comedian Robert Townsend – was (and often still is, even by notable critics) advertised as an action-comedy, but it's really more film noir – albeit noir set in the colorful, bright world of the Caribbean. There's laughs here to be sure, along with some quirky characters (I particularly enjoy a local criminal who appears to have taken up permanent residence in a cell in Quinn's police station), but the film relishes neither in comedy nor action, although it does feel the unnecessary need to have both gunfire and explosions in its final act.
I'm guessing there's a lot of you out there who have heard of 'The Mighty Quinn' but have never watched it, confusing its box office take and overall popularity with the quality of the movie itself. While this Olive Blu-ray release may not offer enough to warrant a purchase (at least until this title hits bargain bin pricing), that doesn't mean the uninitiated should put off seeing the movie any longer. It's one of Washington's most interesting, entertaining characters ever, and it's more than worth a look now that it's available in HD on Blu-ray.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Mighty Quinn' arrives on Blu-ray in standard keepcase, which houses the single-layer 25GB disc along with a folded cardboard insert that shows some other box covers for Olive Blu-ray releases and has a mail-in card for an Olive catalog and to sign up for their e-newsletter.
There are no front-loaded trailers on the disc, whose main menu is a still image that matches the image of the box cover, with menu selections right below the movie's logo on the left side of the screen.
This Blu-ray is Region A-locked.
'The Mighty Quinn' was originally shot on 35mm film (with Arriflex equipment) and is presented on Blu-ray in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. For as colorful as I remember 'The Mighty Quinn' being in both theaters and on my old laserdisc version (I never owned either the 2001 or 2011 DVD release), I was worried that the Blu-ray would either oversaturate or mute the colors, but for the most part, this is a decent looking presentation, although not without its share of problems.
The most notable issue is that 20th Century Fox (who provided this MGM title to Olive Films – so I'm going under the assumption that Olive just used the transfer given to them rather than ponying up cash for their own – which, I've heard they have actually done in some, but not many, instances) hasn't done a whole lot to clean up any dirt or damage on the print, which is not only full of occasional black and white flecks you'll see on older film prints, but has a number of odd-looking black spots that are stationary on the screen in a few scenes throughout. Motion jitter is also occasionally evident, and most noticeable during the movie's opening titles.
While the movie does appear to have some DNR applied (as almost all film-to-Blu-ray transfers do – it's just an issue of how much), it's not to the point of where any major details are lost, although facial features do appear just a tad smoother and less detailed than I think they might have with a little less manipulation. Grain, however, is still obvious, although pushed to the background of most scenes.
For the most part, the transfer gets the color right, with the exception of a few scenes that amp up the reds (and some pinks) to the point where they start to bleed. No need in me pointing out which scenes these are, as they're immediately noticeable – an actress in a pink dress, and the red sashes and stripes that are part of the police uniforms of Quinn's associates.
I'm probably nitpicking this presentation to death more than I would another release, and that's largely due to the fact that this is one of my favorite Denzel Washington movies and I was really hoping for a more 'perfect' transfer. Sadly, it's not that – but it's still a fairly decent presentation and the best I've seen this of this movie since it's theatrical run.
The only audio option on this release is an English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track, which sounds remarkably good, given its stereo limitations. One of the most enjoyable things about 'The Mighty Quinn' is its musical soundtrack, and the songs come off crisply and cleanly, with nice separation between one's two front speakers, and no muddiness or glitches of note. Everything is nicely mixed here, so any music or ambient noises never sound significantly louder than they should, nor drown out the spoken dialogue.
There are no subtitles available on this Blu-ray release.
'The Mighty Quinn' was one of the first times I'd seen Denzel Washington on the big screen, and it still remains one of my favorite movies with him. Like all good films, it's one that works on many levels. It's basically a crime-drama set on a Caribbean island, but – of course – it's so much more than that. It's full of great, well-rounded characters, beautiful locales, and great dialogue. It's a film that's definitely worth a look on Blu-ray – especially if you've never seen it.