With enough local flavor to have been sponsored by the New Orleans' tourist board, a sharp script by Beverly Hills Cop scribe Daniel Petrie Jr., and terrific leads in Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin, The Big Easy represented the best the '80s had to offer in terms of action thrillers. Quaid and Barkin have fantastic chemistry both as antagonists and as romantic partners and the considerably different performances given by each are the fuel that drives the film. Skirting, but never crossing into Cajun caricature, Quaid has never been better, emphasizing his good-natured cop's gleeful corruption but humanizing him enough so that his late-film moral crisis never seems out of line. It's a sharp, but perfect, contrast to Barkin's smoldering introvert. Their film-length coitus interruptus has all the tension that the otherwise familiar drugs-and-guns plot lacks. The colorful setting and memorable supporting characters further help offset this, particularly Ned Beatty as Quaid's mentor. Jim McBride directs with a breezy charm that keeps his film entertaining up to its inevitable, and thankfully brief, shoot-out finale.