Netflix movie of the day: Denzel Washington is hard boiled in the intensely atmospheric Devil in a Blue Dress

Denzel Washington in Devil in a Blue Dress
Denzel Washington exudes moral decency in Devil in a Blue Dress. (Image credit: Sony Pictures)
Movie of the Day

Every day, we cut through the bottomless list of streaming options and recommend something to watch. See all our Netflix movie of the day picks, or our Prime Video movie of the day choices.

Devil in a Blue Dress is one of Denzel Washington's best movies – and, guess what? You can stream it right now on Netflix, aka the world's best streaming service. In it, Washington plays Ezekiel 'Easy' Rawlins, a former soldier turned private eye who takes on the job of finding a missing woman in post-war LA.

The more Rawlins investigates the seamy side of LA, the more serious the trouble he finds himself in. Despite its sometimes savage scenes, it's a very beautiful film that's as hard-boiled as neo-noir movies gets.

What made Devil in a Blue Dress so special?

The film features some stellar performances – not just Washington, whose likability makes him the perfect man to play the likeable but naive new Private Investigator, but also Marvel actor and the Emmy award-winning (if you know, you know) Don Cheadle, who absolutely steals the how. He plays Mouse, Rawlin's frankly terrifying gun-toting pal whose solution to any problem is to shoot it. Iron Man's staunch and heroic ally Colonel James 'Rhodey' Rhodes, Mouse is not.

According to The Washington Post, this is an adaptation made with subtlety rather than being an overtly over-the-top one. Indeed, the paper's review suggests it's "period movie attention-getting... The characters are lightly stylized, rather than loud, flashy and up-tempo; their feet are firmly anchored in realism." Meanwhile, The Associated Press commented: "It is a smart, sly film imbued with the rich subtle tones of a mournful blues saxophone piece, worthy of comparisons to some of the best noir films of decades past." 

According to L.A. Weekly, "[Director Carl] Franklin's adaptation improves on Mosley's original – it's faster and much leaner, and knows to hit the funny notes as well as those more hard-boiled." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also praised the movie and its lead star, saying that Washington "gives 'Easy' a monumental decency. You feel that, no matter what he sees in the line of duty, he'll never develop a seen-it-all cynicism." Tulsa World agreed, noting that Washington "plays 'Easy' as an honest, decent man with a wry sense of humor trying to do right in a world too often steered wrong. It's a marvelous piece of acting, drawing on equal parts matinee-idol slickness and mean-streets toughness."

As for TIME, its reviewer opined: "Writer-director Carl Franklin's cool, expert adaptation of Devil in a Blue Dress, Mosley's first novel, evokes the spirit of '40s film noir more effectively than any movie since Chinatown". One to add to our best Netflix movies list in the weeks ahead? Don't count it out.

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.