Johnny Was (2006) Poster

(2006)

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9/10
Screening at BAFTA London - really enjoyed it
Henry24 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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7/10
Enjoyable
williamhf200517 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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3/10
one of the worst
me-126110 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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9/10
cleaning house
wrlang24 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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8/10
Johnny Was just won audience award at Toronto Rebelfast
strummerfan2011 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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10/10
Johnny IS
rustyandamber9 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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9/10
Just enjoy it
innababylon10 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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9/10
I'd say 9 out of ten
lacabaret9 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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1/10
One Star for Reggae.
andidektor9 April 2006
Warning: 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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8/10
congrats from Canada for Rebelfest award
Denver17 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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1/10
Yet another slap in the face
An-Xphile12 September 2006
Well, what can I say? I think the past 3 or so reviews pretty much summed up all my grievances. I feel so peeved off though from having wasted the past 90-odd minutes of my life that I can't resist ranting. Like the rest of you, I watched this movie because of the good 'reviews'. I watched the film and agree with what has already been said - crap casting, script, direction, etc. So there's no point in me re-hashing the past reviews. But throughout the film, the same thought went through my mind - 'This guy's Northern Irish accent is appalling. And, he's talking utter rubbish'. Being from Belfast myself, as soon as I see Northern Irish characters in a film I brace myself for the impending insult that is generally the complete slur on my fellow Northern Irish with pathetic stereotypes and even worse attempts at accents (Charlies Angels 2 being a particular treat - that guy uttered one line and the whole cinema erupted in laughter. In fact the only time I've been impressed by an actor's accent is Anna Friel and David Thewlis). And this film was no different. Throwing around words like Gobshite and Craic does NOT mean you can do a Northern Irish accent dear. If it did my English boyfriend who moved here would be considered a local. If you want to see good Irish cinema, check out Man About Dog (the REAL 'Irish Snatch') or Mickey Bo and Me, Divorcing Jack, An Everlasting Piece etc etc. And by ALL means, avoid any so-called Northern Irish film that doesn't have Northern Irish actors. Or at least, that has Vinnie Jones being required to be anything other than the strong, silent-type.
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8/10
A brilliant film
morgaine_jezebel21 April 2006
I saw Johnny Was in Dublin and I was totally blown away by the film. The acting, the cast, the soundtrack, everything worked. At first I was a little disappointed that only a couple of the cast were there, but that quickly disappeared when the film began. I must add that I am not the type of person that has NEVER watched a Vinnie Jones film, because I'm far too scared of blood and violence, but this film is very different. It has an intelligent storyline and doesn't focus on the troubles like most other Northern Irish films. As for the ending, it is a stroke of genius. I did not expect what happened and I thought it was a wonderful way to end a fantastic film. I will definitely be showing this film to all of my friends and I wish the cast and crew all the best with it.
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9/10
A great little movie - Vinnie Jones can act!
Peter Howie20 April 2006
I saw this at the Dublin Film Festival premiere. With Vinnie Jones heading the cast you expect knuckle-soup from start to finish, so it took me a little while to realize that this is actually a real movie - about something! I have been a huge fan of Vinnie for many years so it was such a pleasure to see him starring in a film where he is a real person. Great stuff. I also found Patrick Bergin hilarious - his take on his character is just so funny you can't help liking him in spite of him being a terrorist. Eriq La Salle is scary - he's such a good actor I wonder what happened to him after ER - more of him, please. I was very entertained by this film and can't wait to see what Vinnie's up to next!
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10/10
I thought this was HOT!
Sgolds239 April 2006
I'm really tired of films that just show lots of explosions and nothing else. This film was actually about something that matters and it was really fascinating to watch. Never seen a movie that showed the Rasta and Jamaican people mixing with the Irish -- so much more interesting that just a "troubles" film.

And let me say, Vinnie Jones, Eriq LAsalle and Roger Daltrey are HOT -- even tho' Roger could be my Dad. And Lennox Lewis is so hot. I never thought he'd be able to act. He was really good. Loved seeing all these hot guys together. Samantha Mumba was really lucky 2 B with them.

My only negative is that it started kinda slow -- but really kicked in when it got to the druggie stuff.

I loved the music. GOTTA HAVE THE SOUNDTRACK -- really hot reggae mix.

Very different. I saw it in Belfast and everyone I talked to loved it. I hope more films like this get made in UK -- that don't just show same old clichés over and over.

Did I say Eriq Lasalle was hot? Damn!
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10/10
Will the hardest man please stand up, please stand up?
pitcairn368 April 2006
I enjoyed this film a great deal. To me the best description of it is a Brixton "Western". Patrick Bergen delivers a wild , over the top psycho performance. Eric LaSalle is great - his gangster look is as sharp as a tack - kinda charmingly brutal. The look of Vinnie's character Johnny Doyle is really scary, but he is one of the softer characters in the film. However my award for the hardest man goes to Roger Daltry, who for me stole the show. The film has a great thumping reggae soundtrack and some wry humour. Samantha Mumba is still very serious eye-candy.

My negatives were that the relationship between Johnny and Rita was not given more attention and that Roger Daltry should have had more screen time!

Overall, very worth checking out
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1/10
johnny wasn't
gerrycarlin13 April 2006
Went to see the UK premier of this with not very high expectations. I feared my prediction was right when not one of the main cast showed up, but i still had an open mind, maybe it would become a cult classic.

No. I'm willing to put a bet on with anybody that this film will never be released.

I'm not even sure where to begin. Acting is probably the most notable omission so i'll start there. Every single main character is appalling especially Patrick Bergin and Samantha Mumba (who does an awful Irish accent. maybe a bit too much time in Hollywood). In fact, the best performance probably comes from former heavy wight champion of the world Lennox Lewis and thats not saying a lot.

The direction looks like a 12 year old was in charge behind the camera. Costumes and makeup, looked like a 12 year old girl was in charge. The script appeared to be written by Vinney Jones.

I'm actually really sorry for writing this because i wanted 'johnny was' to be the launch platform, showcase, for the new Northern Ireland film industry. Although Belfast did seem to lend itself well to the task, i fear it will do the industry more harm than good.
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9/10
Great, original cast
osheaday1 October 2006
Saw this at Raindance Fest last night.

I can see why it's one of the 4 finalists for the Jury Prize -- it's truly original. Never seen a story like it. It moves way beyond the typical action film.

It has intelligence and wit. Some of it is very funny. Great writing.

But ultimately, it has a serious, thoughtful through line about personal and cultural identity, tribal roots, facing your past honestly and the struggle to move on from a dark past.

A truly eclectic cast -- and each role (with a few exceptions) showed the actors to the best of their ability.

In the case of Lennox Lewis, he exceeded my expectation. He stole every scene he was in.

Vinnie Jones is proving he's an actor of subtly and depth.

The two villains - Patrick Bergin and Eric LaSalle -- were best when facing off against each other.

Action sequences were not great -- but this isn't an action film with drama -- it's a drama that lives in a world of action and violence.

No, this film won't be for everyone. Especially not for those who only want explosions and sex.

This is a much deeper script. It stays with you.

It's not just popcorn.
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10/10
Johnny Was - really rocks
rogerdodger2007-17 September 2006
Just saw this slightly mad little movie at Toronto and LOVED it.

It has one foot in B Movie land and the other in smart thriller. The soundtrack is incredible if you like reggae and dance music.

It reminded me a bit of Lock Stock (but with more brains) and a bit of Ronin (but less slick). About London-Irish gangster Vinnie trying to get out of the life but ending up at war in London with Jamaican drug gang and his former Irish mates. I liked the fact that there were good guys and both guys on every side in this free for all.

Acting-wise Vinnie Jones is very strong. Patrick Bergin plays an over the top but somehow likable psycho. Roger Daltry is good, but needed a few more scenes to get going. And Lennox Lewis is great "Beamin owt to Babylon" as a Rastafarian DJ and unofficial king of the neighborhood.

Anyone expecting some great life-changing experience should stay at home, but anyone with a pulse who likes little action/thriller movies with something to say, with a bit of heart and some grit, should take a look. I think it is due out in the next few weeks on DVD in US anyway.
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7/10
Decent crime flick
My girlfriend brought this movie home. I was pleasantly surprised in the 1st few minutes of this film. Vinnie Jones has always shown he's a great actor, the music was spot on, and the love interest, was, well, lovely. Lennox Lewis was comic relief, both as a character, and as a thespian. Eric LaSalle shows a nice fake yard boy accent. As a Saturday night diversion, this did me well. Toward the end, there's a bit of a twist, which I did not care for, but it did not ruin the movie for us.

The soundtrack and the location shoot was very well done, all in all, I would recommend this movie to anyone who liked ..say, "Lock Stock, and two smoking barrels".
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1/10
the worst film i have ever seen
mommus17 April 2007
I don't understand how this movie could have won an award. What's wrong with our Canadian cousins!?

Perhaps it's the fact that i live in London that makes the terrible attempt at accents all the more acute, or makes it so obvious that it was made in Belfast, rather than London, where it is set. Or perhaps it's the fact that Lennox Lewis (along with the rest of the cast probably!!) is far better at boxing than acting. But I think the real reason this film is such a stinker is that it has absolutely no point or direction whatsoever.

Most of the dialogue is written and delivered in such a way as to make you think it's some kind of GCSE drama improvisation, and the story is non-existent.
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10/10
Awesome Action Flick!
jagon16 June 2006
So, I haven't ever seen Eriq La Salles outside of his ER hospital scrubs anymore, but I'm really impressed that he made the transition from docta to gangsta.

This film succeeds where so many other films have failed in that it portrays people of the underworld as human. There is a great sense of humanity in this film, and you don't need to look too far under the surface to see it.

I'd like to compare this film to Crash, as it successfully integrates people of different races forced to coexist with one another.

The soundtrack of this film is incredible, and its a travesty that Lennox Lewis hasn't devoted more of his life to acting.

There's a touch of every genre in this movie, and I am willing to guarantee that this will be THE break out film for many of these actors as they revitalize their careers!
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10/10
Good music, good writing
filmtrailersfan4 July 2006
When I first read the description of the film, I didn't know quite what to expect. I love reggae, but I wasn't sure how it would work with an action/drama film. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the music was one of the best parts of the film. Lennox Lewis does a great job as a Rasta DJ, which is important since his character really ties the film together. I'm also a huge fan of the Who, so I loved seeing Roger Daltrey in this. There was very strong acting from the entire cast, especially the leads, Vinnie Jones, Eriq La Salle, and Patrick Bergin. It was great to see these three characters try to twist each situation to their advantage, and you never know who's going to come out on top. The plot kept me on the edge of my seat and the ending caught me completely off guard. If you like exciting movies that actually have good dialogue, I definitely recommend this film.

I also recommend this if you liked: Shottas, Third World Cop, Dancehall Queen, The Mighty Quinn
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1/10
IPLA? man tries to go straight.
JIMMYPOOHEAD25 March 2007
A poorly written, terribly acted movie. Do not waste your time watching this movie. I can't even believe I am wasting my time writing a review of it. An IPLA man(what is the IPLA? a fictitious republican paramilitary group, are the producers scared the IRA or INLA will sue them for using their names?) tries to go straight and hides out in Brixton. His past catches up with him when an IPLA man escapes from prison and seeks his help. Blah blah blah the plot is so terrible I can't begin to try and explain how bad it is. If you want to watch a good movie about the troubles watch In the Name of the Father, The Crying Game or The Boxer, not this tripe.
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8/10
Great!
Comeuppance Reviews13 May 2010
"Johnny Was" is an excellent thriller with a twist.

Johnny Doyle (Jones) is trying to live the straight and narrow. He lives in a flat between a Rasta DJ named Ras (Lennox Lewis) and Julius (Eriq La Salle), a psycho drug dealer. Then out of nowhere, Johnny's old partner in crime Flynn (Bergin) shows up. The cops are after Flynn, and Johnny lets him stay in his house. But there are tensions between Flynn and Julius.

What's really good about this movie is the acting. Vinnie Jones is perfect as the title character. Eriq La Salle almost steals the movie... In a good way. The title makes sense, and the ending is very different. The movie has a mixture of styles that work.

"Johnny Was" is one of the most entertaining movies of the year, and I highly recommend it.

For more insanity, please visit: comeuppancereviews.com
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10/10
Johnny Was, like Snatch but with better music.
megan-2062 August 2006
I liked this film, I thought it was very entertaining and the soundtrack was great! As a bit of a "gangsta film phobe lady" I was afraid the movie would have too much violence and gore and gross me out but it wasn't disturbing as much as it was exciting and very interesting. Women could see this film and enjoy it. All of the actors worked very well off each other. This was also the first time I saw Patrick Bergin in a movie since SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY, where he played Julia Roberts' abusive husband, and here again he takes on the role of a despicable escaped IRA paramilitary trouper with a BIG mouth. Vinnie Jones and Eriq LaSalle delivered strong performances even though it's funny that the explained away Jones' lack of Irish accent to the fact that he was a London-raised Irishman (adding to the conflict, but sure seems like an easy out). The reggae music is legendary.I'm sure all of their acting careers will benefit from being in this thrilling drama. I would highly suggest seeing it.
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