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Johnny Handsome is a deformed gangster who plans a successful robbery with a friend of his, Mikey Chalmette, and another couple (Sunny Boid and Rafe Garrett). During the heist, Johnny and Mikey are double-crossed by Sunny and Rafe---Mikey is killed and Johnny sent to prison. While in prison, Johnny is invited to a rehabilitation program, where Dr. Steven Fischer rebuilds Johnny's face and helps Johnny get paroled. Johnny starts working in a shipyard, where he meets Donna McCarty and starts a romance. Lt. A.Z. Drones is a skeptical detective who follows the rehabilitation of Johnny. Johnny's new life is consumed by the desire of payback. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
It is rare that a movie with a premise as far-fetched as Johnny Handsome could wind up being so memorable. It helps when a top notch action director is assisted by an outstanding ensemble cast firing on all cylinders to make this story believable.
Johnny Handsome hit theaters in the fall of '89. It bombed, largely due to a weak promotional campaign by Tri-Star pictures. 19 years later, it is still unavailable on DVD. The excellent cast includes Ellen Barkin, Scott Wilson, and future Oscar winners Morgan Freeman and Forrest Whittaker. However, it is Mickey Rourke in the title role and Lance Henriksen as his arch-nemesis who truly hit grand slams with their performances. The heartbreaking original score by Ry Cooder and the rich atmosphere of the New Orleans setting also elevate this material considerably. This is not your typical revenge action picture.
The movie can best be described as a gritty, noir-ish crime drama with a sci-fi twist that maintains plausibility instead of running off the rails into comedic territory as with 1997's Face/Off. The film moves at a brisk pace, which is fine, but this fact ultimately winds up being the only flaw with Johnny Handsome. One almost gets the impression more was filmed but the studio demanded a 90 minute cut. A Special Edition director's cut DVD is warranted. A longer run time allowing for more scenes to flesh out the characters portrayed by the great supporting cast would have made this already outstanding film a true classic.
It would really be nice to see Walter Hill direct another action film one of these days. Hill and Peckinpah were the real deals. Other filmmakers (such as John Woo) strive to match the perfection of these two, but have yet to achieve it.
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