By People Staff
August 31, 1987 12:00 PM

Oooowee, here is one scorchingly sexy movie. Forget the plot—the usual corrupt cops in the big city stuff. Director Jim McBride, who brought surprising zap to the 1983 remake of Breathless, displays a knack for atmosphere, action and feverish eroticism. The Big Easy, a nickname for the city of New Orleans, suggests a permissive attitude that extends into the police department. Dennis (Innerspace) Quaid is an NOPD lieutenant who dips into the Widows and Orphans Fund—short for the small-time bribe and extortion kitty. The extra cash helps pay for his flashy clothes and flashier women. Drawling in a Cajun patois (he calls everyone “Darlin”), Quaid comes on with a raffish charm. Heck, even Serpico might forgive this good ole boy for being on the take. At least Quaid’s not in on the murderous mob infiltration that brings assistant D.A. Ellen (Desert Bloom) Barkin into the department to investigate. Barkin, all starched efficiency except for those smoky bedroom eyes, tries to resist Quaid’s advances. “I’ve never had much luck with sex,” she tells him. “Darlin’,” he retorts with swaggering confidence, “I believe your luck is gonna change.” What follows is a thrashing encounter to rival that of William Hurt and Kathleen Turner in Body Heat. Shot on location, the film is so evocative you can smell the gumbo. Screenwriter Daniel (Beverly Hills Cop) Petrie Jr. peppered the plot with colorful characters and dialogue. Charles Ludlam, the flamboyant playwright-star of off-Broadway’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company who died last May of AIDS, is richly funny as a smarmy lawyer. And Lisa Jane Persky shows sass as a detective holding her own on the force against the macho bluster of Ned Beatty, John Goodman and Ebbe Roe Smith. Still, it’s hard to unglue your eyes from Quaid and Barkin, two actors in star-making performances. Their love scenes are hotter than anything in K-Paul’s Louisiana kitchen. Rate this movie W for Whew! (R)