The Mighty Quinn (film)
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The Mighty Quinn Film
The Mighty Quinn
The Mighty Quinn.jpg
Film poster
Directed byCarl Schenkel
Produced bySandy Lieberson
Marion Hunt
Ed Elbert
Screenplay byHampton Fancher
Based onFinding Maubee
by A. H. Z. Carr
Music byAnne Dudley
CinematographyJacques Steyn
Edited byJohn Jympson
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • February 16, 1989 (1989-02-16)
Running time
98 min.
Box office$4,557,214

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 1971 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.[1]

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.[2]


Xavier Quinn is the chief of police on a small Caribbean island. When Donald Pater, the millionaire owner of a luxury resort hotel, is found murdered, everyone assumes that the culprit is Maubee, a petty crook who also is Quinn's best friend. Quinn doesn't believe it and clashes with the island's inept Governor Chalk and his arrogant political fixer Thomas Elgin. Quinn's worries over the murder exacerbate his troubles at home; he is estranged from his wife, Lola, and rarely has time to see his son.

Maubee eludes the police at every turn. Quinn questions a witness, who says that Maubee had a (rare) US$10,000 bill. Trying to track down Maubee, Quinn questions Ubu Pearl, the local witch and aunt of Maubee's girlfriend, Isola.

Chalk introduces Quinn to Fred Miller, an affable American said to represent Pater's company.

Pater had been found floating in a hot tub, decapitated. Against Chalk's instructions, Quinn has the body autopsied and finds that Pater died of a venomous snake bite and was already dead when his head was cut off. Quinn arrests Jose Patina, who claims to be on vacation, but has also been questioning people about Maubee's whereabouts.

After Patina is bailed out of jail, he confers with Miller in a seedy hotel. Miller tells him the "operation" is over, then kills Patina. Miller goes to Ubu Pearl and demands to know where Maubee is. When she refuses, he burns down her house, with her inside.

Quinn discovers that Pater, a close associate of the President of the United States, 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 would not support this. The President acts illegally, using the C.I.A. to deliver discontinued currency that is still good but will not be missed from its storage at the US Department of the 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. Maubee explains that Pater impregnated Isola when she was a maid at his hotel. When Ubu Pearl demanded that Pater support the child, Pater fired Isola. Ubu Pearl instructed Isola to go to the hotel and leave a snake in Pater's room. Maubee sped to the hotel and arrived just as Pater was dying from the snakebite. He cut Pater's head off, put his body into the tub to attempt to conceal the cause of death, and grabbed the sack of money.

Miller appears and holds the pair at gunpoint. Maubee hands over the money and Miller departs in a helicopter. Enraged, Maubee grabs onto the helicopter as it lifts off over the ocean. Miller shoots at Maubee and Quinn watches helplessly as his friend's body falls into the ocean. A snake hidden in the sack of money slithers out and fatally bites the helicopter pilot. Miller struggles to regain control, but the chopper crashes into the old ruins and explodes.

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 barefoot prints emerging from the water, leading to a rock with a $10,000 bill sitting on it.



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.[3]


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."[4]

Roger Ebert gave the film four stars. The high point, he said, was Washington's performance:[2]

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.[2]


  1. ^ Canby, Vincent (February 17, 1989). "The Mighty Quinn (1989) Review/Film; Tropical Murder". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b c Ebert, Roger (February 17, 1989). "The Mighty Quinn". Chicago Sun-Times.
  3. ^ Schaffner, Franklin J. (1995). Scarecrow Filmmakers Series. Scarecrow Publishing. p. 277. ISBN 978-0-8108-1799-9.
  4. ^ The Mighty Quinn at Rotten Tomatoes

External links

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Music Scenes