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Johnny Was
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Johnny Was More at IMDbPro »

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17 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Screening at BAFTA London - really enjoyed it

Author: Henry from United Kingdom
24 September 2006

What a complete surprise and what a great story. I went to the screening with a bunch of friends knowing virtually nothing about this other than the cast, which was very celeb-driven.

It looks like a little low key action movie, and in some ways it is, but the story, the quirky characters and the subject matter - about race, national identity and gangster morality - is much smarter than most of the britflicks of recent years. It is like a strange hybrid of Long Good Friday and dark almost comic-book B Movie, and the low key dialogue plays well against the violence in the background.

It completely pulled me in. Vinnie Jones had one foot in his usual hard-man act, but the other was as a much more thoughtful guy, running away from his past.

Patrick Bergin plays a larger than life veteran psycho and is responsible for most of the dark laughs. La Salle is great and the opposite of his old ER character. Talking with my friends afterwards, there was disagreement about Samantha Mumba the former pop singer. Some thought she was too low key, but I thought she played the character of a junkie gangsters girl very well. Everyone agreed that Vinnie and Lennox Lewis were the best performances. Old Rocker Roger Daltrey was also good in a smaller role.

Some of the action looked a bit wobbly, but London came out looking well, especially Brixton Market.

Our verdict: if you are looking for a big budget action movie, this isn't it. But if you are sick and tired of movies which are all flash and no substance, this one with its unusual settings and great characters that stay with you after the movie is over might be for you.

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16 out of 24 people found the following review useful:


Author: williamhf2005 from United States
17 April 2006

Only saw review DVD, but enjoyed it. Actually watched it twice, partly due to a really great reggae soundtrack, and liked it better second time.

While it is a bit rough at the edges, it has some great performances and a sort of quirky appeal. The idea of an unsafe safe house works well, and there is an interesting dynamic between Vinny Jones, Patrick Bergin and Eriq LaSalle. While it is a thriller, it does not take itself too seriously and I agree with the 'spagetti western' comments elsewhere. Nice twist in the ending and some good one-liners.

Jones gives a very solid performance a long way from his usual tough guy, Bergin is theatrical, but entertaining and Eriq LaSalle is powerful as a gangster who wants to be a businessman.

It zips along and the wall-to-wall reggae is first rate - must be about 30 or 40 tracks

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21 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

one of the worst

Author: me-1261 from Netherlands
10 September 2006

What can I say? I watched this movie because of the IMDb ratings, and I just can't believe that they are real. It looks like the online marketers got to this one, because the movie is awful. Don't believe the other reviews. The plot has holes in it, the characters aren't believable and basically it's one big embarrassment for the UK film industry. If only the ratings would have reflected this obviously bad movie, I would have avoided it. Leave this one on the shelf, or at least don't expect a movie worth a rating of (as of my writing) a seven and a half. I love how the other reviews are so professional sounding, with such interesting insights into the movie. Let me quote a couple:

jagon1 (only ever reviewed 1 movie): 'I'd like to compare this film to Crash, as it successfully integrates people of different races forced to coexist with one another.' - this movie is a comedy and crash is a drama.. The Jamaicans and Brits in London get on quite well together. Marketing hype.

rustyandamber from Dublin (the movie is about Irish terrorists, interesting coincidence.. yes again only one comment): "Music was a big thing - I like rap and rock but reggae is totally different. Lennox's mixes were great." - I like rap and rock but reggae is totally different? what? This isn't real.

parkertilley from saint vincent (who also only ever reviewed this movie) has the following detailed information in his/her review: "(Vinnie Jones (XMEN 3), Patrick Bergin, Roger Daltrey--YES, from the WHO!). Especially when one of the IRA guys tries to steal the gangster's girl (Samantha Mumba (TIME MACHINE))." - This is marketing hype.

megan-206 (who, you guessed it, only ever wrote this single review): Women could see this film and enjoy it. - yes, this is marketing.

Exactly 11 of the 23 reviews talk about how amazing the soundtrack is. I have never seen so many reviews talk about a movie's soundtrack. Quite handy since the soundtrack comes on the DVD.. - Marketing hype.

I could go on and into more detail, but I wont. As of writing this, almost every good review of this movie reads as a marketing ploy. Maybe one or two are real, but the rest sound the same, are _overly_ positive, keep going on about the soundtrack and have never written another review.

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11 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

cleaning house

Author: wrlang from United States
24 September 2006

Johnny Was is a great Irish movie about criminals doing the right thing. Jones plays an ex-IRA operative trying to lay low after a bombing gone wrong until he can make a new life. Two of his old buddies (Bergin, Daltrey, Kinlin) who escape from prison and track him down to get revenge. They meet up with La Salle who is a drug dealer and Lewis the Rasta radio jock with a huge local following and Mumba who plays the drug dealers girl. They make try and scam each other until it all catches up with them in a very well thought out climax that left me with a smirk on my face. Not particularly fast paced, but the end is worth the wait.

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12 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Johnny Was just won audience award at Toronto Rebelfast

Author: strummerfan20 from United States
11 September 2006

Johnny Was just one the audience award at Rebelfest, the indie fest that runs alongside Toronto Film Fest. It even got an encore screening because it sold out and the audience feedback was so good.

It beat out ten other features, some of which were also really good.

I agree with Innababylon's comments. The movie is a rolicking good bit of madness that gallops all over the place. The characters are larger than life so of course not 'believable' but very engaging. The movie tries to be both a B-Movie and a 'thinker' with a lot of humor.

Will it make my top ten? Doubt it, but is it part of a great night in, for anyone who likes a mad little movie with a heart and a brain, you bet. The movie is driven along by an amazing soundtrack of about forty reggae tracks from the On-U label and others.

Overall, eight out of ten.

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20 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

Johnny IS

Author: rustyandamber from Dublin
9 April 2006

Go see this movie. Good story. Not boring. Good actors. Liked the Brixton setting - liked multi-racial story and music -- and love story. Vinnie and Samantha very hot together.

Music was a big thing - I like rap and rock but reggae is totally different. Lennox's mixes were great.

Even though it obviously wasn't shot in London, I liked that it was about Irish people and Multi-racial people in London. Wasn't just a boring bunch of Brits.

Eriq LaSalle gave the movie a lot of tension and excitement. Loved the scenes with him and Patrick Bergin. Very unique seeing the two cultures go at it and play cat and mouse.

Recommend a lot.

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13 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

I'd say 9 out of ten

Author: lacabaret from Chicago
9 April 2006

I saw this movie in Belfast on my first trip to Ireland and I thought it was great. Wish US movies were this cool. You'd never hear reggae music like this in a Hollywood movie and I really liked the story.

I think Vinnie Jones is great in everything he does -- but he was especially good in this one. Loved him fighting with Patrick Bergin as the psycho guy who wants him to go back to being as psycho as he is.

I also really liked Lennox Lewis as the pirate DJ. He's really powerful on screen. He could be like Samuel Jackson or 50 Cent if he had more parts like this.

This wasn't like I thought it was gonna be. But I really liked it and would def check it out again on DVD.

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14 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

Just enjoy it

Author: innababylon from United States
10 September 2006

The last person's negative comments are a laugh. Me-109 or whatever his name is says everyone is is wrong because they enjoyed the movie, or else (unlike him!) they are all just hype because most only did one review - but Me has only ever written two (and both say 'don't watch this movie it is all hype'). Most people don't post too many reviews because we have a life and maybe don't see so many things we like enough. Most of the comments are from UK and Ireland because that was where the movie was made and played at festivals. It only just came over here (U.S.).

This movie is not for anyone like the moaner who wants to take it too seriously. It is a fun B Movie made for not a lot of money that I went to see because I love reggae. Lots of the comments say that. Watch it on those terms and enjoy it or not, but spare the rest of us the lectures. Go find a movie you like and tell us why instead. I for one will be waiting for the soundtrsck.

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7 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

congrats from Canada for Rebelfest award

Author: Denver from Canada
17 September 2006

Attended Rebelfest in Toronto where this won the Sony Audience Award and as a fellow filmmaker enjoyed meeting some of the guys involved in making it.

The mix of voices in the movie was really different - Jamaican, Irish, English and a lot of people have commented on the soundtrack of reggae, which was well used.

Some aspects were not so great - technical production left a bit to be desired, but I suppose this is low budget indie problems always.

Acting wise I think Vinnie Jones was good and while I read some comment about him not doing a good Irish accent, unless I've completely missed the point I thought he was supposed to be a Londoner whose family came from Ireland, which would mean he spoke like a Londoner - which to my ears he did.

Another small grumble is that Roger Daltrey is very good but should have had a bigger role. He has an interesting character, but it just comes and goes.

I agree with the comments on Samantha Mumba - a bit too healthy looking for a junkie. On the other hand, Lennox Lewis, who I was expecting to be just a celeb cameo did really well in an interesting role as a DJ running an illegal music station.

Anyway - we enjoyed it, so congrats to cast and crew from someone who knows how hard it is to get indie movies made.

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11 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

One Star for Reggae.

Author: andidektor from United Kingdom
9 April 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If you had to cast a tragic hero, a tough guy haunted by a violent past, driven by circumstances to redemption in the midst of moral emptiness and criminal depravity – would you choose Vinnie Jones? No, me neither…

As Johnny Doyle, Vinnie manages three states: 1. bewildered (whether it's required by the script or not), 2. blank (notably in moments of intended emotional engagement) and 3. angry (this could also be referred to as "the grimace").

Lennox Lewis as "DJ Ras", top Rastafarian, has even less range - one state only. He shares Vinnie's number 2. It's numbing to watch.

And if you employ a fine actor like Eriq La Salle to play Julius, a sleazy, brutal, murdering, drug dealing low-life yardie, living in a derelict crack den in the only graffiti-blitzed house in a suburban terrace somewhere in "Brixton" – would you sabotage his performance by dressing him like a middle management executive? Admittedly he has some bling around his neck and fingers, but his general presentation is just about right for the club house at his local golf club.

La Salle does bring moments of real menace and a sense of depth to Julius, but it's never sustained by the script. At one point La Salle's character is so evil that he withholds a bag of heroin from his junkie girlfriend Rita, (Samantha Mumba), until she is forced to (wait for it…) …kiss him on the lips, her humiliation witnessed passionlessly by Johnny (Vinnie, state 2). Where would Tarantino have taken a scene like that? Ah well.

Rita, the fittest, plumpest, healthiest junkie I've ever seen, sleepwalks from one encounter with Johnnie to the next. She's meant to have a heart of gold, because she used to be a nurse and she's nice to wounded people, but it's hard to tell because most of the time she looks bored. What a spiv like Julius sees in her is just one more mystery in a narrative that is very short on motivation for all but Patrick Bergin's unrepentant terrorist "Flynn".

As Flynn, Bergin shovels on his back-story in an OTT parody of a Northern Irish hard man, his acting as arch as his dialogue. He bludgeons his way through every scene he's in. Sometimes Vinnie shouts back at him - which is not a good idea - it seems to encourage new levels of sneering and eye-rolling.

Lost in the underwritten background of "Johnny Was" is an ill-at-ease Roger Daltrey cameo which is meant to be "hard" but isn't; an insignificant young sidekick for the escaped terrorist who's uselessly around for the duration; and the odd stereotypical good mate, thug or low-life, all by-the-numbers and forgettable.

The plot depends on meaningless deceits, incredible twists and gullible people. Characters appear and disappear just to help the exposition of a scene, or to inject some arbitrary plot point. People suddenly have guns or knives, or bombs. The action (mostly shooting) just… happens. It's all played in a monotone. Even the photography is flat, neither stylised or natural. It would all be fun if there was a tongue in a cheek somewhere, or a modicum of style, but there isn't.

And then there's the ending. Oh dear.

What I can't understand is, what makes this a "movie" at all? The cast of C-list celebrities? An average episode of The Sweeney (or even current fluff like BBC's "Hustle") has better writing, production, direction and personality.

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