The Mighty Quinn (film)
|The Mighty Quinn|
|Directed by||Carl Schenkel|
|Produced by||Sandy Lieberson
|Screenplay by||Hampton Fancher|
|Based on||Finding Maubee
by A. H. Z. Carr
|Music by||Anne Dudley|
|Edited by||John Jympson|
|February 16, 1989|
The Mighty Quinn is a 1989 thriller film starring Denzel Washington, Robert Townsend, James Fox, Mimi Rogers, M. Emmet Walsh, and Sheryl Lee Ralph. The screenplay by Hampton Fancher is based on A. H. Z. Carr's 1982 novel Finding Maubee. In the film, Washington plays Xavier Quinn, a police chief who tries to help his childhood friend Maubee (Townsend) after he becomes a murder suspect.
The film takes its name from the Bob Dylan song of the same name, a Reggae cover version of which appears on the soundtrack. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film an overwhelmingly positive review, calling it one of the best films of 1989.
Xavier Quinn (Denzel Washington) is the chief of police on a small, unnamed Caribbean island (the novel was set on the fictional island of St. Caro). When Donald Pater, the millionaire owner of a luxury resort hotel, is found murdered, everyone assumes that the culprit is Maubee (Robert Townsend), a petty crook who also happens to be Quinn's best friend. Quinn doesn't believe it and clashes with the local bureaucracy: Thomas Elgin (James Fox), an arrogant political fixer, and the island's underqualified governor (Norman Beaton). Quinn's worries over the murder exacerbate his troubles at home; he is estranged from his wife, Lola (Sheryl Lee Ralph), and rarely has time to see his son.
Maubee eludes the police at every turn, even appearing personally to Xavier now and again, before running off. On one of these occasions, Quinn questions a witness afterward, who says that Maubee was carrying a "$10,000 bill. Trying to track down Maubee, Quinn questions Ubu Pearl (Esther Rolle), the local witch and aunt of Maubee's current girlfriend, Isola; and Hadley Elgin (Mimi Rogers), Thomas's wife, who feels a powerful attraction to Quinn. The governor also introduces Xavier to Fred Miller (M. Emmet Walsh), an affable American said to represent the murdered man's company.
The cause of Pater's death seems obvious: he was found floating in a Jacuzzi tub, decapitated. Against the governor's instructions, Quinn has the body autopsied by the elderly Dr. Raj (Keye Luke), who reports that Pater died of a venomous snake bite and was already dead when his head was cut off. Quinn notices a Latin man following him and stops to apprehend him. The man, Jose Patina (Alex Colon), claims to be on vacation, but Xavier finds he has also been questioning people around the island trying to find Maubee. Quinn questions Hadley about her encounter with Patina. She tries to seduce him, but he resists, and wanders to a bar where he entertains the crowd with a piano performance. Half drunk, Quinn is picked up by Maubee in a stolen car, and they spend a night on the beach when they remininsce. In the morning, Quinn wakes up to find Maubee gone, despite the handcuffs that he put on him.
When Patina is bailed out of jail, he confers with Miller in a seedy hotel. Miller tells him the "operation" is over, then kills Patina with a silenced pistol. Miller then goes to Ubu Pearl and demands that she tell him where Maubee is. When she refuses, he burns down her house, with her inside. Quinn eventually works out that Pater, a close associate of the U.S. President, brought stacks of $10,000 bills to the island to be picked up by Patina. The President wants to fund an anti-Communist revolution in Latin America, but Congress doesn't agree. The President is using discontinued currency that is still good but will not be missed from its storage in the U.S. Treasury. The murder messed up the plan, so the C.I.A. has sent Miller to retrieve the money and "plug up the holes."
Quinn tracks Maubee down at their childhood playground in an ancient ruin, where Maubee explains the rest of the mystery: Pater impregnated Isola when she was a maid at the hotel. Ubu Pearl demanded that Pater support the child. Pater laughed this off, and Isola was fired. Ubu Pearl instructed Isola to go to the hotel and leave a snake in Pater's room. Maubee snuck into the house to see Isola and, when he found out where she had gone, sped to the hotel but was too late. He arrived just as Pater was dying from the snakebite and saw the money in the suitcase. Maubee cut Pater's head off, put his body into the tub to try to conceal the real cause of death, and grabbed the money.
Miller arrives, having also found the hiding place, and holds the pair at gunpoint. Maubee hands over the money, and Miller departs in a helicopter. Insanely, Maubee runs out and grabs onto the helicopter as it lifts off over the ocean. Seeing him, Miller sticks his gun out the window and fires, and Quinn watches helplessly as his friend's body falls into the ocean. A snake hidden in the money sack slithers out and fatally bites the helicopter pilot. Miller struggles to regain control, but the chopper crashes into the old ruins and explodes, killing them both.
Grieved at the loss of his friend, Quinn returns home and reconciles with his wife. As he walks on the beach with his son, the camera pans down to show a line of bare footprints emerging from the water, leading to a rock with a $10,000 bill sitting on it.
- Denzel Washington as Xavier Quinn
- Robert Townsend as Maubee
- James Fox as Thomas Elgin
- Mimi Rogers as Hadley Elgin
- M. Emmet Walsh as Fred Miller
- Sheryl Lee Ralph as Lola Quinn
- Esther Rolle as Ubu Pearl
- Art Evans as Jump Jones
- Henry Judd Baker as Nicotine
- Norman Beaton as Governor Chalk
- Alex Colon as Jose Patina
- Tyra Ferrell as Isola
- Keye Luke as Doctor Raj
- Carl Bradshaw as Cocodick (The Prisoner)
- Oliver Samuels Officer Rupert
The Mighty Quinn was filmed at various locations throughout Jamaica, with the principal outdoor scenes shot in Port Antonio. Interior scenes of Donald Pater's mansion were filmed at Golden Clouds Villa in Oracabessa.
The Mighty Quinn gained mostly positive reviews from critics. It holds an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 16 reviews, with the consensus reading: "A deft hybrid of laughs, espionage, and music, The Mighty Quinn is a smart, pleasant entertainment that offers an early example of Denzel Washington's onscreen magnetism."
The film stars Denzel Washington in one of those roles that creates a movie star overnight. You might have imagined that would have happened to Washington after he starred in "Cry Freedom" as the South African hero Steven Biko. He got an Oscar nomination for that performance, but it didn't even begin to hint at his reserves of charm, sexiness and offbeat humor. In an effortless way that reminds me of Robert Mitchum, Michael Caine or Sean Connery in the best of the Bond pictures, he is able to be tough and gentle at the same time, able to play a hero and yet not take himself too seriously.
- Canby, Vincent (February 17, 1989). "The Mighty Quinn (1989) Review/Film; Tropical Murder". The New York Times.
- Ebert, Roger (February 17, 1989). "The Mighty Quinn". Chicago Sun-Times.
- Schaffner, Franklin J. (1995). Scarecrow Filmmakers Series. Scarecrow Publishing. p. 277. ISBN 978-0-8108-1799-9.
- The Mighty Quinn at Rotten Tomatoes