The Mighty Quinn

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Screening followed by a conversation between critics Matt Zoller Seitz and critic Odie Henderson

“Glory may have earned Denzel Washington his first Oscar, but the other movie he made in 1989, THE MIGHTY QUINN, is where he became the Den-ZELLLL fans know and love. As island cop, Chief Xavier Quinn, he exudes a primal sexiness that is perhaps only matched by his turn in Mississippi Masala. One can argue whether he’s hotter in that movie, but he’s never been looser and more disarming than he is in director Carl Schenkel’s adaptation of A.H.Z. Carr’s novel, Finding Maubee. Washington’s accent may be a tad suspect, but that’s part of Chief Quinn’s charm.

The Mighty Quinn is primarily a murder mystery. It’s also a comedy, a drama, a thriller and even a horror movie. If that weren’t enough, it contains several musical numbers by reggae superstars like Rita Marley plus Abbott Elementary’s own Sheryl Lee Ralph, who plays Quinn’s estranged wife. The sexy interplay between Ralph and Washington is worth the price of admission alone.

As an added incentive, there’s a sinister M. Emmett Walsh, a slinky Mimi Rogers and a slimy James Fox. Fans of Good Times will want to see Esther Rolle as a deadly voodoo priestess who tells Quinn “you can’t arrest me. I don’t do nuttin!” As Maubee, the prime suspect in the murder of a rich White man on the island, Robert Townsend evokes the trickster of African myth while stealing scenes from Washington.

Hampton Fancher, who co-wrote Blade Runner, provides a script where dialogue is key, so attention must be paid. Characters tell on themselves and foreshadow events though their spoken words or the lyrics they sing. The script also provides a scorcher of a seduction scene between Washington and Rogers that will put the audience on the edge of their seats.

One of the best—and most unfairly ignored—movies of the 1980s, THE MIGHT is a joyous, rousing must-see that doesn’t waste a single one of its 98 minutes. If I haven’t sold it enough, let me end with two words that should seal the deal:

Denzel SINGS!”

-Odie Henderson

Presented as part of the series Movies with MZS – Spring 2023

  • Country USA
  • Year 1989
  • Running Time 98 minutes
  • Format DCP
  • Distributor Park Circus
  • Director Carl Schenkel
  • Cast Denzel Washington, James Fox, Mimi Rogers, Sheryl Lee Ralph, M. Emmet Walsh

IFC Center does not generally provide advisories about subject matter or potentially triggering content in films, as sensitivities vary from person to person. In addition to the synopses, trailers and other links on our website, further information about content and age-appropriateness for specific films can be found on Common Sense Media, IMDb and as well as through general internet searches.