Johnny Handsome (1989) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
56 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Walter Hill's undervalued neo-noir.
hitchcockthelegend31 March 2014
Johnny Handsome is directed by Walter Hill and adapted to screenplay by Ken Friedman from the novel "The Three Worlds of Johnny Handsome" written by John Godey. It stars Mickey Rourke, Ellen Barkin, Elizabeth McGovern, Lance Henriksen, Forest Whitaker, Morgan Freeman and Scott Wilson. Music is by Ry Cooder and cinematography by Matthew F. Leonetti.

John Sedley (Rourke), AKA: Johnny Handsome, has a severely disfigured face, when he and his only real friend are double-crossed by two accomplices during a robbery, Johnny is sent to prison and his life reaches a new low. However, hope springs in the form of Dr. Steven Fisher (Whitaker), a pioneering plastic surgeon who offers to give Johnny surgery that would give him a normal face as he attempts to integrate back into society. With a new face making him unrecognisable, there is scope to enact revenge on the two people who killed his best friend and had him put in prison...

Walter Hill knows his film noir, anyone who has seen The Driver knows this. Here for Johnny Handsome, Hill takes a lot of the fantastical elements of noir and dresses it up admirably as a violent revenge thriller. A box office flop and something of a kicking post for big hitting critics of the late 1980s, it's a film that now can be seen as being very much in tune with its influences.

The charges of it being too bonkers, too violent and too much of a "B" movie homage just don't add up, because what is on offer is good solid meaty neo-noir cinema. A protagonist with an affliction, medical shenanigans, hyper femme fatale, over the top villain and a stoic and sarcastic gumshoe type copper. All of which operate in a sweaty and luridly coloured New Orleans. Add in Hill's eye for aggressive action sequences and it's neo a go-go.

Hill gets strong performances from his cast, ensuring emotional bonds are not over egged and a clamour for sympathy and understanding kept to a bearable level by the actors playing the "good" guys "n" dolls. While giving Henriksen and Barkin licence to sizzle with sinister glee is astute and perfectly in tune with the material on the page. Leonetti's photography has the requisite pulpy noirishness to it, and the familiar twangs of Ry Cooder are never a bad thing in a Walter Hill movie.

It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but those complaining about missed opportunities regarding rehabilitation - or that the liberal doctor turns out to be clinically wrong in his reform beliefs - really are missing the point or unaware of the world where something like Johnny Handsome lives. From the kinetic misery at film's start, to the "ever so in tune with film noir" finale, Johnny Handsome is well worth a look by anyone interested in noir's updated version. 7/10
12 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Compromised Hill film buoyed by three terrific performances
fertilecelluloid23 December 2005
"Johnny Handsome" is a flawed but fascinating work from Walter Hill. Mickey Rourke is great as a deformed criminal who returns to avenge the people (Ellen Barkin and Lance Henriksen) who wronged him. The conceit of the premise is that Johnny's enemies will not see him coming with his new face, a face rebuilt after his ugly one was cut to pieces. Unfortunately, this potentially rich premise is quickly discarded and the film becomes a more standard crime yarn with a pointless love story thrown in. Johnny's love interest, Elizabeth McGovern, who was great in a similar role in "Racing With The Moon", is wasted and just doesn't belong in this material.

Lance Henriksen and Ellen Barkin are great as two of the oiliest lowlifes to impact with a movie screen in years. Barkin's pronunciation of the word "geek", when referring to Rourke's character, is hilarious, as is the crime couple's incessant badgering of each other. If the film had focused more on this duo and less on McGovern and another subplot involving Forest Whitaker, who is saddled with a dreadfully written role as a doctor who tries to help Johnny, it would have been a true contender.

The opening robbery scene is classic Hill -- brutal and economical -- and sets high expectations for the mayhem to come. Ry Cooder's slide guitar score is mesmerizing, and Mathew F. Leonetti's cinematography is moody and beguiling.

Ultimately, the film is a gritty pulp crime novel compromised by studio concessions. Which is such a crying shame.
31 out of 37 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
bronsonskull7213 July 2003
Mickey Rourke gives an astonishing performance as John Sedley a deformed thug who gets a chance at a normal life when a kind Doctor (Forrest Whitaker) asks to do plastic surgery on Sedley. Sedley accepts and is torn between going straight or getting revenge on the two(Lance Henriksen and Ellen Barkin) that killed his friend Mikey (Scott Wilson)in this compelling yet slightly long drama. Some very exciting actionscenes and a good ear for dialog make Johnny Handsome stand out from other revenge flicks in the genre.
26 out of 30 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"I know who you are. What you are".
lost-in-limbo9 April 2011
Well renowned action director Walter Hill tackles a more moody, character driven crime drama in the shape of "Johnny Handsome" and it would have to be one of his under-the-radar productions. The story follows that of a deformed criminal John who stages a heist, however there's a double-cross which sees his best friend killed and him going to prison. There he is asked to take part in a rehabilitation program, where they clear him of his deformity while also getting him parole. Hoping now that he can start a new life, however John is still burning inside for vengeance.

Presenting an ideal cast, Hill really does cast a spell over his audience with solid (even if it does feel a bit underdone) story-telling backed up by credibly good performances from leading man Mickey Rourke (within the peak of his career) and equally so support by Morgan Freeman, Ellen Barkin Lance Henrikson, Elizabeth McGovern and Forest Whitaker. Everybody chips in, adding their own stamp to proceedings and establishing gripping character rapports or confrontations (e.g. between Freeman's detective and Whitaker's doctor).

Hill's cruise-like direction is crisp and tidy, engineering some intense passages and some well-oiled, edgy action set-pieces, although they are low-key (still violent) but this really does belong to its cast and the interestingly, smart story (that was adapted off John Godey's novel "The Three Worlds of Johnny Handsome"). The ambitious plot does have a lot going on and it might not all come together, but how it does play out stays constantly interesting and rather unpleasant in its details. Rourke's character Johnny is given a chance to start over and go straight, from this physical change brings much needed confidence but the hunger inside for revenge can't simply be cured or forgotten. Someone he cared for, who saw beyond his deformity deserved payback. Johnny would deliver it. So he carefully plans out the revenge, wanting to tease before actually ending it and things get even more suspenseful when the situation starts to go off the rails. Lance Henrikson and Ellen Barkin really do nail down their explosively sly parts of the two crooks who betrayed Johnny. The ever-reliable, Hill regular Ry Cooder adds a smoking touch to the music score.

One of those films I didn't know all that much of, but came away pleasantly surprised.
11 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Great Dramatic and Violent Movie
claudio_carvalho25 August 2003
Johnny Handsome (Mickey Rooker) is a deformed gangster who planned a successful robbery with a friend of him Mikey Chalmette (Scott Wilson) and the couple Sunny Boid (Ellen Barkin) and Rafe Garrett (Lance Henriksen). After the heist, Johnny and Mikey are double-crossed by Sunny and Rafe, being Mikey killed and Johnny sent to prison. A few years later, Johnny is invited to a rehabilitation program, where Dr. Steven Fischer (Forest Whitaker) rebuilds Johnny's face and obtains his parole. Johnny starts working in a shipyard, where he meets Donna McCarty (Elizabeth McGovern) and starts a romance. Lt. A.Z. Drones (Morgan Freeman) is a detective who does not believe in the rehabilitation of Johnny. Johnny's new life is consumed by the desire of pay-back.

The photography of this Walter Hill's movie is very dark, like most of the characters. The excellent cast, supported by a great direction and a wonderful soundtrack of Ry Cooder makes this film a great dramatic and violent movie. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Um Rosto Sem Passado" ("A Face Without Past")
11 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"Pretty Hard To Believe, Ain't It"
JimS_868617 February 2008
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.
22 out of 27 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An enjoyable Mickey Rourke vehicle.
Hey_Sweden28 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Decent, highly watchable pulp crime fiction from Walter Hill, based upon the novel "The Three Worlds of Johnny Handsome" by John Godey, and scripted by Ken Friedman. It's much too predictable in terms of the story developments, so it misses its chance for greatness, but thanks to an excellent cast, typically efficient direction from Hill, and a seedy ambiance, it still works pretty well. Mickey Rourke does nicely as the title character, a small time criminal with a deformed face who's had a pretty hard knock life. He participates in a heist to assist father figure Mikey Chalmette (Scott Wilson), but their partners in crime, Rafe Garrett (Lance Henriksen) and Sunny Boyd (Ellen Barkin) double cross them, leading to Mikey's death and Johnny's arrest. While in prison, Johnny is approached by a well intentioned young doctor, Steven Resher (Forest Whitaker), who proposes performing plastic surgery on Johnny's features to assist him in attempting a new life. Of course, what the cynical police detective A.Z. Drones (Morgan Freeman) believes is what we all know to expect: once a lowlife, ALWAYS a lowlife, and even while working a legitimate job, Johnny plans vengeance. The violence is, as is standard for Hill's work, quite stylish and brutal. The makeup on Rourke, courtesy of Michael Westmore and Zoltan Elek, is impressive. Ry Cooder's flavourful music is as always a treat to listen to. Rourke is capably supported by Henriksen and Barkin, who are a colourful pair of utterly trashy, despicable villains; her pronunciation of the word "geek" is indeed priceless. Freeman is a hoot as the cop, and the too briefly seen Wilson is wonderful. Elizabeth McGovern is appealing enough as the obligatory love interest. Also appearing are David Schramm ('Wings') as crooked lawyer Vic Dumask, Hill repertory player Peter Jason as shipyard boss Mr. Bonet, J.W. Smith as criminal accomplice Larry, Jeffrey Meek as thieving shipyard employee Earl, and prominent comedian / character actor Blake Clark in a bit part as a sheriff. The story may be mostly standard fare, but it's still well told and the movie is solidly entertaining right up to its inevitable conclusion. Seven out of 10.
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An Undiscovered Gem!
Squrpleboy20 January 2002
Mickey Rourke has to be one of the greatest, yet most under-rated,

American actors alive today. This film proves it. He plays this

character with layers and a depth few could accomplish or would

even dare. Unfortunately, most people regard his personal life

(and abrasive personality itself) with such disdain that they refuse

to fairly judge his professional accomplishments.

Rourke plays a grotesquely facially disfigured man who's life of

ridicule, non-existent home-life, and resultant self-guilt have led

him to a life of crime. Nothing original there, I'll admit. But one

must watch Rourke's subtle portrayal to see not a man of rage, as

most actors would give, and be expected of, from the audience, but

a man quietly locked into his world of pain. The way he holds his

cigarette from the top, so as to cover part of his face; the downward

tilt of his head, eyes averted from anyone's gaze; or the curt, quiet

speaking so as not to draw too much attention. The example of

speech is in itself remarkable. Not only does Rourke affect a

severe speech impediment as the disfigured Johnny Handsome,

but he then takes on a new one as a man who is now capable of

proper diction, but who is completely unused to being able to

speak properly. And he is constant in his portrayal throughout.

The story is simple but good, driven with excellent visual editing,

and a wonderful sound track (provided by Ry Cooder), that really

sets the pacing. The cast is largely wonderful, as well, with quite a

few recognizable "stars". Forest Whitaker as the sympathetic but

driven and demanding doctor, Lance Henrikson and Ellen Barkin

in amazing performances as two completely greedy "scum-bags",

and Morgan Freeman, in a real role reversal, as a rotten, taunting

parole officer. Probably the only weak link in the cast is Elizabeth

McGovern, who's attempted Louisiana accent never holds up and

over-all acting just suffices.

This film remains a favorite of mine that I watch every now and

again, always enjoying it both for the excitingly building tension of

the story, and the great performances (and performers) littered

throughout the film. If you like this film, I also suggest "The

Elephant Man", by David Lynch (for the life-with-disfigurement

aspects), or "The Warriors", by Walter Hill, as a great, early

example of this same director's work.

8/10 Mickey Rourke at his best!
37 out of 51 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Fun Updating of the Film Noir
Michael_Elliott16 February 2018
Johnny Handsome (1989)

*** (out of 4)

John Sedley (Mickey Rourke) is a deformed criminal who goes to pull a heist with Rafe (Lance Henriksen) and Sunny (Ellen Barkin) but they double cross him, which leads him into prison. Inside there's an attempt on his life but he barely survives and that's when Dr. Fisher (Forest Whitaker) offers him an option for plastic surgery. He's let out of prison and starts his new life, which is based around revenge.

Director Walter Hill was riding a wave of success going into this picture. If you go through his career you'll see that he took at stab at several different genres throughout the 1980's with this one here being his attempt at a film noir. All the elements of the noir are on hand here but of course it's been updated for the era, which means it's in color, has a lot more sexuality and of course the nature of the material has been boosted to a R-rating.

JOHNNY HANDSOME works on many different levels but we can just focus on the payback aspect of the story. The character is someone that you actually like and he's someone who end up caring for and feeling bad for. When you like a character so much it's easy to root for them and the film then gives us a couple great villains to root against. The entire revenge aspect work so well and Hill pulls you into this life and really takes you along for a terrific ride.

It certainly helps that the cast are so wonderful with Rourke leading the way in what's really a double role. He did a wonderful job at playing the deformed character and he really comes to life once he becomes the handsome guy who sets out for revenge. Hendriksen is also terrific as the main bad guy as he certainly makes you hate the character. Barkin brings the same type of toughness and sexuality that she displayed in SEA OF LOVE. You've then got a nice turn by Whitaker, a good performance from Elizabeth McGovern and then there's Morgan Freeman playing a cop who you never know what he's up to.

The film contains a great score, some really good cinematography and of course there's Walter Hill's eye that helps pull all of this together. The film really isn't as violent as some of Hill's previous films but it also contains some glorious style that the director really didn't show in earlier movies. JOHNNY HANDSOME is an extremely entertaining film that's worth watching.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Gripping entertainment
bugsbunny21 February 2001
This is an engrosssing,pulse pounding thriller. It has depth not often found in many Hollywood movies in its characters. Even though it was made in 1989, this is classic Film-Noir. It has that dark, edgy, disturbing feel that is typically found only in Detective Movies of the 30s and 40s. It reaches down into the dark recesses of the soul and displays them for the audience. The way it plays out is much more in the style of Old Movies. It displays the powerful extremes that come in the nature of Good and Evil. This movie isn't just a simple thrill-ride of a movie, it is powerful, gripping entertainment.
18 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Well Bless My Soul - You Are A Nice Girl
ShootingShark21 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Johnny Handsome is a bank robber with facial deformities. When his friend is killed and he is double-crossed by some accomplices on a job he ends up in prison, but his case is taken up by a pioneering surgeon researching the link between physical disabilities and criminal recidivism. If he can give Johnny a new face, can Johnny turn his life around ?

I have a very soft spot for this movie, although I must admit its story line is unremittingly bleak and its world view is harshly cynical. If you're looking for a cheery date movie, its cocktail of violence, suffering and nihilism is perhaps not for you. But, if you're prepared to go with it, it's a great story full of rich characters, terrific performances and a highly original theme - to what extent are criminal tendencies part of our personalities, and is it futile to try to overcome them ? I'm especially drawn to the Drones character (brilliantly played by Freeman), for whom life contains no surprises and people behave in an entirely predictable way. In one sense he's loathsome, constantly hounding and belittling anyone's attempt to better themselves, but in another he's a world-weary but compassionate realist whose eloquent final epitaph for Johnny is as touching and heartfelt as any ever written. All of the characters are imbued with passion, be it Donna's dignity, Sunny's scheming, Dr Fisher's philanthropy or Rafe's constantly simmering fury, and the entire ensemble are all fearless and terrific, right down to the minor players. The sultry New Orleans setting and drunken blues guitar score by Ry Cooder combine to create a potboiler atmosphere of decadence and tension, of lives lived at a flashpoint and corruption lurking around every darkened street corner. It also utilises a very interesting camera style, whereby the actors are often talking and looking direct to camera for long beats; monologues rather than over-the-shoulder dialogue. This stuff is literally in-your-face and intensifies all the big speeches - director of photography Matthew F. Leonetti also counterpoints it with silent reaction shots, so that the movie is deliciously slow and dreamy as it winds towards its sad but satisfying conclusion. All of these elements are beautifully woven together by Hill into a brilliant - if minor - crime picture which is both thought-provoking and deeply affecting. Extremely well written by Ken Friedman, based on the book The Three Worlds Of Johnny Handsome by John Godey (who also wrote The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three). If you are ever prone to thinking Morgan Freeman is overrated, or in too many movies, give yourself a stern talking to and then watch this film. All of the cast are very good, but he is mesmerisingly brilliant - every nuance, every look, every pause, every gesture counts towards the drama and contradiction of his complicated character and to the rich enjoyment of the movie. He's a truly great actor. 7/10
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Much better than its reputation
mattbaxter7227 August 2006
The ratings at IMDb are generally pretty accurate; if a film is rated 8, it's good, if it's rated 6 it's not so good, and if it's rated 4, you shouldn't waste your time. This is the first time I can remember being really baffled by a rating - this film really deserves to be rated much higher.

The plot is simple enough. Johnny Handsome has been given an ironic name because of his hideous disfigurement which makes him repulsive to everyone he meets. In the circumstances, he doesn't have much choice but to turn to crime, and when he's betrayed by his accomplices, he ends up in jail. There he meets a brilliant surgeon, who fixes his face and makes him look like - well, like Mickey Rourke. Released on parole he finds a job and a girlfriend, but he can't escape his grim past and his need for vengeance.

Now I'm not saying the film is perfect by any means. There are plot holes a-go-go, and the whole thing falls apart a bit in the last twenty minutes or so - the ending is especially disappointing. But come on, it's better than 5.6, with good performances from Rourke, Forest Whitaker and a turn of twinkly eyed cynicism from Morgan Freeman, who effortlessly steals every scene he appears in. And let's not forget a deliciously over the top effort from Ellen Barkin as the baddest girl ever to walk the earth.

It isn't Shakespeare, but it's directed in typically robust style by Walter Hill, and to my surprise I found myself caring about Johnny and hoping it all worked out for him. I won't say whether it does or not, because it's worth seeing this one to find out for yourself. Just get a big bucket of popcorn and don't think too much, and you'll have a great time.
25 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Great Movie! With Fantastic Performances All Around!
callanvass10 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This was a great movie with some fantastic performances by all involved!, especially Rourke, Freeman, and Henriksen!. It's a powerful film, and i really felt sorry for Rourke's character. It kept me hooked all the way through, with it's disturbing images, and and interesting story. The ending is very sad, and Henriksen is really brutal , and extremely menacing as the main villain. Perfect casting choices all around, i truly enjoyed this movie. The Direction is very good. Walter Hill, does a very good job here, keeping the film at an excellent pace, and keeping it grim and engrossing throughout!. There is a bit of blood. We get lots of extremely bloody gunshot wounds, harsh bloody beatings, and some knife slices. The Acting is EXCELLENT!. Mickey Rourke, is AMAZING here , he is one of the most underrated actors out there, his performance here is simply amazing, he is extremely likable, and ya really feel for him, his chemistry with Elizabeth McGovern is very good, and overall i just really dig this guy. Ellen Barkin, is good here, but got on my nerves a couple times and i though she over did it at times as well. Elizabeth McGovern, is good with what she had to do, and had good chemistry with Rourke, decent looking as well.Morgan Freeman, is AMAZING here as always, he is very likable, and did his job extremely well!, he is one of the best actors of all time in my opinion. Lance Henriksen is is also AWESOME as as always, he can do this role in his sleep, but damn is he fun to watch!, and he was extremely menacing. Forest Whitaker, is good as the doctor i liked him. Overall i highly suggest you see this one! ***1/2 out of 5
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Level-Headed Gaze at the Natural Progression of a Character
jzappa23 May 2010
Johnny Handsome emerges from the film noir envelope of the 1940s, out of movies with bleak streets and bitter laughter, with characters who dwell in sourpuss crash pads and regard bars as their personal salons. It is set in New Orleans, a city with a film noir essence, and it stars Mickey Rourke, who siphons himself into the role of a burnt-out down-and-outer who has as good as withdrawn himself. The only real friend he has is a father figure named Mikey, who brings Johnny in on a jewelry store job with a couple of really shady characters. They call him Johnny Handsome since his face has been miserably deformed since birth. He and John Merrick look closely related. Johnny has also trained himself to talk despite some sort of nasal or vocal obstruction by his disfigurement, resulting in a rhinal, phonetic mutter. As the movie opens he and Mikey have been double-crossed resulting in Mikey dead, Johnny the patsy, the haul in the hands of their despicable associates.

In jail, he's accorded a deal if he'll single out his co-conspirators. He declines, because it is of course gangland decree that you do not rat on your partners, and of course also because he intends to kill them when he gets back on the street. But then an intriguing thing happens to him: In jail, a caring surgeon recommends that plastic surgery could turn Johnny into a fairly attractive guy, and speech therapy could make him into an adequate contender for rehabilitation. Johnny is such a miserable and achingly sad character in such a bleak world that we are overjoyed by this ray of sunlight.

Johnny has nothing to lose, and subjects himself to the surgery which, faithful to the customs of movies like this, is no problem at all. Out on parole, he walks the straight and narrow. And he happens on a girl who loves him. However Johnny has an inner dilemma: Since the day he was born he's been walking around feeling repulsive, fearful, rejected, that he has a hard time grasping any real fortune. In fact, the choice is clear all along: He can go straight, mind his p's and q's and be content with this woman. Or he can resume with crime and see his vengeance through. As a man who's spent his entire life made to feel like a waste and a good-for-nothing, he has a choice between something that at this point he finds difficult, and something that comes very very easily. As per Rourke's usual, he adopts a challenging physical transformation that complements his emotional one.

Made during the late '80s, '90s stretch of typically unintelligent action pictures, with audiences less enterprising in a way than those of the 1940s and stars who like to maintain their hero worship or avoid any threat to their masculinity at the end, there is the expectation that Johnny will choose the path of improvement and hopefulness, not without some difficulty, naturally, but he is endowed with every emotional, practical and legal clean break to be able to do that. Nevertheless, the charm of this film, especially as an American action movie from 1989, is that it takes a level-headed gaze at the natural progression of its character. If you've been jeered into the shadows all your life, no matter how much light you suddenly get, where would you feel most at home? And what is happiness? Satisfaction, peace of mind. If you were him, what would really truly give you those things? This old film noir wine poured into a gritty, hazy new bottle is filmed with genuine flair. Matthew F. Leonetti, the cinematographer, smokes out the scrappiest alienation in the most sordid sections of New Orleans, and the Ry Cooder music is a merge with the blues and a weep. It is strange how Walter Hill's intensely dark and violent dramatic thriller is given little to no reference literature, hardly anyone has heard of it, is all in all a buried treasure. Not that many movies have the utter nostalgia, ruefulness and grit that this movie evokes throughout.

And the movie is definitely enhanced by tenacious supporting performances by a remarkably notable cast including Ellen Barkin, playing one rotten apple riding roughshod over any and everything that even comes close to boring her; Morgan Freeman in a rare role as a mean, cold man, a lone-wolf cop just waiting for Johnny to slip up; Lance Henriksen, on the other hand, breaking out of all those stoic roles to eat up the scenery as a formidably wicked character of almost comic-book proportions; and Forest Whitaker, that urgent ray of sunlight in Johnny's life, that one presence who is highly educated and highly compassionate and ennobled by his profession. And though he's largely identified with the action genres of post-classical American cinema, Hill directs with an almost maligning disinterest in Reagan-era Hollywood formality. This is a movie in the real practice of film noir, a movie where heroism is simply being able to survive, where an everyday person treats himself to the darker proclivities of his character, and destiny arrives.
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
So-so from the great Hill
FilmFlaneur12 July 2002
This is a minor Walter Hill film, partly redeemed by a couple of strong performances and an excellent score. Mickey Rourke (whose last good film perhaps this is) plays John Sedley /‘Johnny Handsome' and labours for the first part of the film under make up presumably inspired by the Elephant Man - as well as a handicapping mumble, recalling the actor's idol Marlon Brando. Hill, one time Peckinpah protégé, has seen better days with such films as The Warriors, 48 Hours, Streets of Fire etc, and here struggles to make a rather bald plot dynamic. Essentially it's a tale of crime gone wrong, betrayal, brooding and then final revenge, enlivened with rather peremptory love interest. The surgery side of the story, in which Sedley is miraculously remade into handsome Mickey Rourke, is no more than a detour from an underworld tale we've all seen before.

Hill characteristically provides memorable opening sequences for his films. This strength is apparent here, as details of the cast appear over the preparation for the initial robbery, cut together effectively and precisely. The director fades the colour on these opening planning scenes, and later also includes a brief and horrific flashback in black and white. There are two robberies in the film, central points about which much of the drama revolves, carried off with some flair by the participants and the editing department. There's something of the flair of Hong Kong crime cinema as the masked villains burst into shops and offices to make their ‘killing'. Elsewhere things flag a little - especially in the unconvincing Sunny – Rafe relationship, played respectively by an aggressive Ellen Barkin and the normally excellent Lance Henriksen. Sadly the character and motivations of the chief villain remains one-dimensional, and Rafe's bare-armed menace never rises above stereotype.

Sedley struggles to first rebuild his face, then his life, while courting the rather insipid Donna (Elizabeth McGovern) and hatching his master plan. Although his motivation for revenge is clear, in between surgery and larceny he rather languishes. Donna is a `nice girl': either naïve or forgiving, however one choses to see her, whose role in the final denouement is also deemed `nice work'. This vaguely pejorative epithet, as well as her ill-judged covering up for a former boyfriend, provide her character's most defining moments. Her presence fails to give Sedley the impetus he needs, and her final abduction is sadly predictable. The attempt to work up another major character, this time through the doctor-with-a-social-conscience who treats Sedley (a peculiarly be-whiskered Forest Whitaker) is only partially successful. After a brief couple of confrontations with the implacable, and splendidly named, police Lieutenant A. Z. Drones (Morgan Freeman), he disappears. On the plus side, Rourke gives a generally good performance, being especially affecting in the scene when he examines his new face. Despite the limitations of the script, and even with the affected mumble, the actor avoids dropping into bathos in this critical scene, actually convincing the viewer of his pleasure in his new identity. His convincing gratitude to those who have changed his appearance pays dividends at the end of the film, during his confrontation with the vengeful Rafe. Rafe's pummeling of Sedley's face and vicious attack on his newly-constituted features with a knife is truly disturbing, precisely because Rourke has so successfully communicated the humanity behind the criminal and surgical subject earlier.

As Drones (whose dogged perseverance reminds one of Inspector Javert in Les Miserables), Freeman is excellent. An actor whose distinctive tones and modulated performances give class to any film, he raises his part far above the lines he is given here, and goes a way in making up for weaknesses elsewhere. During his few prison scenes with Rourke, in fact, one can shut one's eyes listen to his voice, and summon up the much greater pleasures of The Shawshank Redemption (1994). It is he who recognises the reality at the centre of the film: that Sedley can change his appearance, but can never change what is inside of himself or where it will lead: ` I know what you are' he says to the felon at one point. `And we both know where you're going, don't we Johnny?' At the close of the film, after bullets have flown and dust settled, Sedly finally acknowledges this fact using an ironic phrase which implies both physical and moral assessment : `How do I look?'.

Fans of Rourke and Freeman will certainly want to see this film, although others will find there is rather less to it than meets the eye. Ry Cooder, a regular collaborator with the director, turns in a superb score full of slide guitar work, with dramatic bass lines for the action sequences. This makes one regret that the final package to which he contributed so valiantly is ultimately so unmemorable. Admirers of Hill, wanting to see one of his late urban thrillers with more interest, will be better off with Trespass of three years later.
15 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Involving, But Too Ugly
ccthemovieman-16 November 2005
Sordid movies usually don't appeal to me but this was worth two looks before finally having to say, "That's enough."

The story is interesting and involving, which is why it was worth a couple of viewings. Revenge tales are always satisfying, too, unfortunately. This one gets kudos for the realistic ending which has something you rarely see in films.

What made me trade this DVD in for something else? Two actor's characters: Ellen Barkin's and Lance Henriksen's. Question: is the there a modern-day female actress, outside of Jennifer Jason Leigh, who has had a more foul mouth than Barkin? She is brutal. Henriksen isn't much better. Their dialog in here is straight out of an x-rated cartoon.

Even the "nice" character in this film, played by Elizabeth McGovern, is sleeping with the hero in no time - of course, and making one stupid decision after another. Speaking of foul mouths, one of Hollywood's best in that department, Mickey Rourke, plays "Johnny Handsome." He's a little hard to understand in the beginning, doing his Elephant Man imitation, until he has his plastic surgery, so prepared to strain to understand him for awhile.

The story also features Morgan Freeman, Forest Whitaker and Scott Wilson making this a deep cast. Ry Cooder provides a good soundtrack.

If you like sordid stories, garbage-mouth people and brutal revenge with stupid dialog, then this is your movie. Otherwise, consider it Johnny Ugly.
14 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Johnny Handsome
decalcify28 May 2000
I really like this movie. Ellen Barkin's performance as a foul mouthed moll to Lance Henrickson's depraved killer club owner is striking. Even Mickey Rourke gives a true interpretation of the title character. Check out the scene where Johnny sees his completed new face for the first time, he captures the scene perfectly.
7 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Great,Underrated Crime Drama/Film Noir/Thriller from Walter Hill with a Excellent performance from Mickey Rourke.
jcbutthead861 December 2012
Johnny Handsome is a great,underrated Crime Drama,Film Noir and Thriller that's filled with great direction,wonderful performances,film score and is one of Walter Hill and Mickey Rourke's best films and is very overlooked.

Based on the novel The Three Worlds Of Johnny Handsome by John Godey and set in New Orleans Johnny Handsome tells the story of John Sedley(Mickey Rourke)a man nicknamed Johnny Handsome because of the physical deformities on his face who sets up a robbery with two lowlifes named Sunny(Ellen Barkin)and Rafe(Lance Henriksen)to help his friend,Mikey(Scott Wilson)an older brother-type. When the robbery goes wrong,Mikey is killed by Rafe and Johnny is set-up by Sunny and Rafe to take the fall and gets put in prison and is stabbed while he's inside prison. While Johnny is in the hospital and in a coma,a sympathetic surgeon named Dr. Steven Fisher(Forrest Whitaker)offers Johnny a reconstructive surgery on his face and a new life. Although Johnny has a new face and name,Johnny still wants to get revenge on Sunny and Rafe at all costs new face or not.

Johnny Handsome is an excellent film that is true to the genre and spirit of Film Noir,it's dark,gritty and ugly and the film works so well not just as Crime Drama,Film Noir or Thriller,but also as a great character study. Walter Hill definitely knows the Film Noir genre having done another Film Noir in 1978 with his classic The Driver. What I love about the film is that Hill creates a world of a dark world not at all related to the 80s but to the 40s,where in this film and in the works of Dashell Hammett and Raymond Chandler some of the characters are good,bad or something else in between. Where in the 80s most films were bright and colorful,Johnny Handsome is grim and gritty and doesn't fit in with the colorful world of the 80s where all characters are good and everything is going to turnout all right and I think that is one of the reasons that Johnny Handsome is underrated because right from the opening credits it's established that Johnny Handsome is not a lighthearted film but a film that is going to be bleak and dark until the very end. Johnny Handsome is a film that could have easily been made in the 40s. What I also love about Johnny Handsome is that it's a great character study. The main character John Sedley is a tragic character in many respects,because even though John has had surgery on his face and has a new name,John still feels like he has his old face and has the same emotions he had before. John also has to go out into the world with his new face try to deal with his past and present. The past where Dr.Fisher gives John a new face and a new life and feels that he will turnout o.k or having to deal with local cop L.T A.Z.Drones(Morgan Freeman)who despite seeing Johnny's new face doesn't believe that John will never,ever change and will always be a criminal. Another thing from his past is Sunny and Rafe and how John still carries the emotional scars from dealing with those two and trying to get revenge. In the present,Johnny doesn't want his new girlfriend and lover Donna(Elizabeth McGovern)to know about his past or who he used to be,but unfortunately for Johnny his past and present meet up. I think that one of the themes of the film is that you can change how a person looks on the outside but,you can't change how they feel on the inside Some probably would see Hill's films as just Action films,but the characters in his films have depth and history and it's one of the many reasons Walter Hill is one of my favorite film directors. Johnny Handsome is not only a great Film Noir but also a great character study of John Sedley. Although not as Action-packed as many of Hill's films,Johnny Handsome has a few well-executed Action scenes that will get the viewer riled up which are violent and fast and at times brutal which greatly matches the film's dark and gritty tone. With the exception of a couple films Hill has never been known for making long films and if their is a flaw with this film is that it's not long enough in my opinion and should have been 15-20 minutes longer and had more scenes with the characters because I wanted to see much more,but that doesn't stop the film from being great and memorable. The ending of this film is brilliant,powerful,bleak and sad but is true to the dark and grim spirit of Film Noir. An excellent and unforgettable conclusion.

The whole cast does a great job. Mickey Rourke is excellent and at his best as John Sedley,bringing depth,toughness and sadness to the role. One of Rourke's most underrated performances. Ellen Barkin is fantastic,over the top and sexy as Sunny a sexy,but slimy woman. Elizabeth McGovern does a great job as Donna,Johnny's new girlfriend. Lance Henriksen is menacing and believable as Rafe,Sunny's partner in crime. Morgan Freeman is great as always as cop L.T. A.Z.Drones a cop who's always on Johnny's case. Forest Whitaker is wonderful as Dr.Fisher a sympathetic doctor who tries to help and understand Johnny. Scott Glenn does a fine job in his small role as Mikey,John's friend and older brother-type.

Walter Hill's direction is excellent,bringing a dark,gritty,somber look to the film and also does well with the Action scenes. Great direction,Hill.

Ry Cooder's score is amazing and it gives the film a hard edge with it's somber,blues-like sound and truly adds to the film.

In final word,if you love Walter Hill,Mickey Rourke,Crime Dramas,Film Noir or Thrillers,I Highly suggest you see out Johnny Handsome an underrated and overlooked film that will stay with you after you watch it and is Walter Hill and Mickey Rourke at their best. Highly Recommended. 10/10.
7 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A badly deformed criminal is rehabilitated undergoing reconstructive surgery only to use his new identity to plot revenge!
DanLives198013 August 2011
Many reviews to date regarding the 1989 film 'Johnny Handsome' claimed that the Walter Hill crime thriller was a slow moving, poorly aimed feature. Since I gave the film a chance I came to the conclusion that those critics probably watched the opening half hour before skipping off to the salon with their BFF's to get their back, crack and sack waxed and flap wrists over watercress soup and Madonna music videos. I'm guessing that was late '80's Hollywood anyway, I don't really want to know the specifics...

I found it thoroughly enjoyable, 'Johnny Handsome', that was; very influential (inter-textual references made by great modern directors such as John Woo with the likes of 'Hard Target' have nodded in Handsome's direction) and in regard to issues still proving highly debatable today contained within the film, it remains far ahead of its time.

'Johnny Handsome' is the story of the downtrodden and tragic John Sedley, played with humility and stark realism by Mickey Rourke. Left to fend for himself since the age of 13 after his prostitute mother died and having been born with a great genetic deformity that has rendered his face as badly deformed as that of the Elephant Man, he is a joke, he's unwanted, unloved and therefore has turned to crime to survive. He cannot talk properly due to the absence of a formal education and also as a result of a hare lip.

Sedley is asked by his closest friend Mikey Chalmette, played humbly and earnestly by Scott Wilson, out of desperation to help him set up a heist in their hometown of New Orleans.

Double-crossed and left for dead, Sedley is the victim of an attempted murder in prison, which sets him on the road to redemption when a doctor offers a trial of radical reconstructive surgery to cure his genetic deformity as he enters the witness protection program. But smiling darkly on the edge of every scene is Police Lieutenant A.Z. Drones, played softly yet sinisterly by a fresh-faced Morgan Freeman, a man who continually claims that the seemingly fragile and long-damaged Sedley is a born criminal who will offend again, regardless of the efforts of his redeemers to help him become a part of the civilised world.

So when Sedley undergoes his miraculous transformation, is given a voice to speak with and learns to exercise his past demons, he takes an honest job. But with Drones on his back like the ghost of his conscience, it isn't long before he is contemplating using his new identity to draw the double-crossing heist partners who put him in prison and now believe he is dead into a revenge plot, playing them off against each other in the process.

Johnny Handsome boasts one of the finest lists of actors dedicated to what is essentially a small scale but very well written crime drama. It plays off a single strand narrative but allows all its key characters to play openly and occasionally run riot as they tend to in all Walter Hill films. Everyone has a story and if not, they come with clever pieces of worldly wisdom seldom found in movie characters. Morgan Freeman for one being world renowned for playing such characters.

But also with a supporting cast including Forest Whittaker, Lance Henriksen and Ellen Barkin, you're treated to the finest drama you could expect from an '80's crime thriller, that particular decade not exactly known for its drama over absent minded action films and comedies.

New Orleans itself plays a fine character in the film, breathing colour into its scenes. From the docks, the narrow streets and the colourful nightclubs of the French Quarter and the unmistakeably distinctive graveyards right down to the architecture within the apartments and houses, the city gives this film an undeniable sense of place that few others could have provided. This is also a regular feature of Hill's older films such as The Driver, The Warriors, 48 Hours and Southern Comfort. Hill is as much an artist painting a picture as he is a director of unique acting talent.

But Sedley's affliction is the main theme of the film, something that not only draws out the worst in the worst people but often the worst of the best. It's difficult to tell whether Lt. A.Z. Drones is either a good man or a villain because he believes that Sedley's new face is just a mask hiding the ugly truth of who he used to be and who he will always be deep down. Throughout the film and towards the end, Sedley comes to believe that this is true and that he might actually be redeemed simply by coming to accept it but much of the story is about the conflicting emotions of a man being torn in both directions by good and bad influences, weakened by a lifetime of torment and neglect. In many respects, it's a moral tale, which is surprising but in a good way.

Maybe 'Johnny Handsome' was too honest, thoughtful and too unconventionally cool for critics expecting yet another Walter Hill all-male shoot em up after he gave the world 'Extreme Prejudice' and 'Red Heat' but maybe it was Hill's decision to wear his grizzled heart on his sleeve, to allow his main character to fall in love and to want forgiveness, that let down his 98% male audience. After all, he hasn't made such a statement since, yet 'Johnny Handsome' is possibly the most mature piece of work in Hill's back catalogue and although it didn't work so well in 1989, I feel it's more relevant now than it may ever be, in a vain world obsessed with looks yet one that is set off balance by a sympathetic minority that understands the ugliness of this world represents the reality so frequently avoided!
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Undiscovered Neo-Noir Winner from Walter Hill, Mickey Rourke and Crew
LeonLouisRicci24 May 2014
Stylist Walter Hill has Directed some Very Underrated and Under-Appreciated Movies and this is One of them. With a Killer Cast including Lance Henriksen, Ellen Barkin, Morgan Freeman, and Forest Whitaker it is Mickey Rourke as the Title Character that Slinks Back in the Frame and Plays Off the Others with Pathos and Empathy that draws the Viewer into this Violent and Edgy Neo-Noir.

It is a Colorful Downer of a Movie that has Roots in the Pulp Fiction and Film Noir of the Thirties and Forties. Set in Modern Day New Orleans the Mood is Bleak and Sombre. The Movie Burns with Style and the Charismatic Characters all Contribute to this Low Brow Version of a Greek Tragedy.

The Film was Ignored and Panned but it is a Gem Waiting for Discovery by Modern Film Buffs and has a Packed in Quality that Unleashes a Baggage of Bang Up Scenes that Click with a Cutting Edge of Nastiness and Cynicism. Henriksen and Barkin are Foul Mouthed Low Lifes of the Highest Order and Morgan Freeman is on hand to Deliver some of the most Defeatist Dialog.

Mickey Rourke shows once again a Knack for Picking the most Off Beat Roles and Delivers yet another take of Someone Outside the Orbit of Hollywood. The Ry Cooder Score is just One More Addition to this Already Rich Rumble of the Mean Streets.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Blood and bourbon soaked noir master work
NateWatchesCoolMovies24 August 2015
Walter Hill's bluesy, melancholic crime thriller Johnny Handsome is a grimy concoction of violent heists and brutal shootouts held together by a character study of facially deformed career criminal John Sedley (Mickey Rourke). Sedley, looking like a cross between the elephant man and an orc, is a withdrawn, awkward outsider whose only success has been in illegal activities. Him and his partner (Scott Wilson) hook up with evil pair of dirtbags Rafé Garett (Lance Henriksen) and Sunny Boyd (Ellen Barkin) to pull off a jewelry store job. They get double crossed by the no good shitheels, his partner winds up dead, and Johnny gets caught. As part of an experimental program, Johnny undergoes a procedure to have his face altered to look normal. It's a success, and with a new face, Johnny gets parole, a legit job and begins to start anew. However, the bloody betrayal still haunts him, and slowly he starts to want revenge. This film lives in the snappy world of garish, larger than life criminals and hard nosed, mean spirited cops, a heightened, slimy version of the action genre that Hill delivers like the pro he is. Moody blues, smoky, detritus stained alleyways and the ever present vibe of the seedy side of New Orleans permeate every alcove of this piece, giving it a distinct, off noir flavor. Rourke nails the transformation from out casted freak into alpha dog slick tough guy like a caterpillar emerging from its cocoon, making us feel for Johnny despite his sordid lifestyle. Henriksen is a preening, sickening monster as street rat Garrett, a high strung, sadistic degenerate that will shoot his mother in the face if he thought he'd get a dollar and a smoke out of it. Barkin is a snake, oozing sluttiness and petulant, psychotic damaged goods charm from every whiny drawl and coy little grimace, the ultimate bad girl. Morgan Freeman turns up in a rare tough guy turn, as A.Z. Drones, the uptight cop who sees nothing but trash in Johnny and has no hope for any change. Freeman's reaction to Johnny's new face is one of sarcastic, stunned hilarity and is a career best scene from him. Forest Whitaker makes an appearance as the sympathetic doctor in charge of the operation, and Elizabeth Mcgovernn is a welcome breath of fresh air from the greasy rogues gallery, as a nice girl he meets at his legit job. This gritty yarn waltzes in straight from a dime store novella, and Hill knows how to guide it just this side of silly, with just the right amount of cheeky pulp, grounded writing, rambunctious, blood soaked shootouts, and well, bold drawn characterizations.
4 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Modern Film Noir
romanorum113 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
So hideously deformed in his face that even his speech is affected, Johnny Sedley (Mickey Rourke) – called Johnny Handsome for obvious reasons – nevertheless knows how to plan robberies. But the robbery of the Prestige Jewelry store is very violent and goes haywire when two of the robbers betray and shoot the other three. One of the three is Johnny, who, although left for dead, survives. In jail Johnny is attacked and knife-wounded by two inmates and sent to prison hospital. The attacking inmates were bribed to kill Johnny by scoundrel robbers Rafe Garrett (Lance Henriksen) and Sunny Boyd (Ellen Barkin). Lt. Drones (Morgan Freeman) visits Johnny to tell him that he is "nothing but a cheap crook." He gets five years prison time in Louisiana Penitentiary at Angola. Thoughtful prison doctor Fisher (Forest Whitaker) offers Johnny a new face. He feels that recidivism sometimes relates to physical deformities and so believes that Johnny will get a second chance. Plus he doesn't want to blame Johnny for the actions of his mother, who was both a drug user and prostitute.

Not only do the operations work well, but Johnny now has a new identification, Johnny Mitchell. Meanwhile, speech therapy has taken a long time. The newspapers report that Johnny has died while incarcerated. On parole, Johnny has a construction job at Commodore Shipyard waiting for him courtesy of Dr. Fisher. Johnny works hard and eventually strikes up a courtship with office secretary Donna McCarthy (Elizabeth McGovern). Donna had dated slimy Earl, who stole items from the tool shop. Donna, herself stained, had covered for him by removing the items from her inventory list. Johnny strong-armed Earl, who then disappeared from the scene. At this point Johnny has a choice: He can go straight with Donna or return to his life of crime and take his revenge on Rafe and Sunny. The latter thought prevails as Johnny's close friend was double-crossed and killed by Rafe and Sunny in the jewelry holdup, and Johnny, who had a downtrodden life, believes in payback. Lt. Drones stops by to remind Johnny that – despite his new face and new name – he will regress into his life of crime. Right after Johnny enters the sleazy bar where Rafe and Sunny operate. It is obvious that the situation between the two lowlifes is less than charming. Anyway, Johnny eventually convinces them of a potential $5 million heist at Commodore Shipyard. When Rafe and Sunny inquire the particulars of Johnny – like why he chose them, the jobs he pulled, the folks he knows – Johnny says that he met a fellow by the name of Johnny Handsome who died in jail. Rafe and Sunny seem convinced, but Sunny seems to take an additional liking to Johnny. She says that $5 million divided by two is better than divided by three. Of course, she has no scruples. Anyway, the film's second robbery goes as planned. Of course there is the eventual double dealing.

Before the end Johnny will get his revenge, but will have sustained a beating beforehand. And although he kills his enemies, he is mortally wounded. In the end Lt. Drones mutters, "Well Johnny, that darn doctor didn't understand this part, did he?"

The New Orleans atmosphere of this "modern" noir works decently in its darkness and grittiness although the dialog is rather so-so. Folks will cringe at the beating at the end. Rourke is good enough in the lead as a tragic character, especially his replication of a speech impediment in early scenes. Still, despite other good performances by Freeman as a cynical detective and Whitaker as a sympathetic doctor, the movie offers nothing unusual. The menacing character of bare-armed villain Henriksen is strictly one- dimensional. Barkin is sufficiently sleazy, but her southern accent is not too convincing. McGovern is a less than intelligent lass who consistently makes imprudent choices. On a final note, the key hair stylist could at least have changed Johnny's hairstyle after his facial reconstruction! It would have made him more convincing.
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A missed opportunity...
Maziun18 September 2012
Great cast - Mickey Rourke ("Diner") , Morgan Freeman ("The Shawshank redemption") , Lance Henriksen ("Aliens") , Forest Whitaker ("Good morning Vietnam") , Ellen Burstyn ("Requiem for a dream") and Elizabeth McGovern ("Once upon a time in America") . Nice director - Walter Hill ("48 hours" , "Red Heat" ) . Together in one movie . It should have been a hit , right ? Unfortunately , you can't do much when the screenplay is flat.

"Johnny handsome" has got a promising starting point. A deformed gangster gets a new face. He now must make a choice : a) search for people who betrayed him or b) try to live a normal life. I don't think the writer knew what to do next. Important characters from the first half of the movie (doctor,noon) should return in the second half.It would make the movie much more dramatic , if Johnny would feel shame for letting down people who helped him. The story needs more drama , more complex characters. I was able to predict movie to the very end. In the last twenty minutes the characters start to act illogically , which makes me think that the writer didn't know how to end this movie. Though the story idea is somewhat interesting, I don't think it was handled well by script-writer Ken Friedman.

Walter Hill certainly creates a mood of noir movies here. The actors do good job , but also they feel wasted here. With a far better script they could give us awesome performances. Rourke and Burstyn are IMHO the best in the movie.

It should be a heart-gripping entertainment . "Johnny handsome" has style , but not a heart.Too bad . I ended up unsatisfactory; not really frustrated, but in a longing-for-more position.

I give it a 4/10.
6 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Look beyond the obvious. Johnny Handsome.
peegeedee326 January 2005
When I watched the movie Johnny Handsome, over again. I saw it from a whole new perspective. Other commentators that I've read here, looked at the movie only as to, character development, and ongoing plot continuity. They never looked at the movie as a human interest story! A glimpse into a possible life, lived in just the way it was presented! The story of a such a person, who may have actually lived, and who may have had the experiences that the character of John had, deformed as he was, and so may have had to re-acted in exactly the way he did? It's all the figment of some writer's imagination, but stretch your own mind enough to envelope this concept of this one man's life yourself? Saying Mickey Rourke cannot act, is a very short-sighted, and erroneous statement to make, after exploring the complexities of this character's existence overall. Mickey Rourke had the depth, and the finely tuned sensitivity, to convey the hopelessness of spirit, and also the continual confusion, of a totally scarred and horribly deformed, and therefore ugly and repulsive, singular human entity. John started out being socially unassertive,bereft of other contemporaries, visibly embarrassed, and yet, at the same time, pseudo-aggressive, and drawn to the criminal element. Understandably so, due to his low self-esteem, which is a by-product of his off-putting facial deformities. Mickey wore that face as if he truly had been born with it in reality. John's motivation, (for getting revenge on the two miscreants that had plotted against him, and his friend, in the robbery, and then killed his friend and wounded him), was the fact that, although he was hideous to the world at large, that one man had treated him as a person, a confidant, (due in part to John's unique skills), and befriended him, not as a horribly deformed freak, but as a peer, albeit, a peer in criminal activities. Even though, after his operation, John became a, "new man", just like everybody else, acceptable to the general population. This to the point of even attracting a "normal" caring woman to his new self. That wasn't enough to have changed his already well developed, "antisocial, unreasonable, and skewered" psyche. That part of him that would always be "unacceptable", in a so called "normal" world. So when the chance to avenge his only "true" friend, one who had included John (in his former incarnation), into his own bleak life routinely, how could John, with his scarred sensibilities, turn from the possibility of making a re-payment, he felt he "owed" this to Mikey? That alone would have driven John, at any cost, to figure out a way, in which ever way he could, to destroy the two characters, played so viciously and perfectly, by the actors Hendrikson, and Barkin. He fought their fire with his fire. Really this was the only way John knew, and the only option that was opened to him. A new face wouldn't have changed that. How could a person watching this movie expect rationality? I didn't comment on the Freeman character, Drones, because he just did what you would expect a cop to do. See a criminal, and try to find him doing something wrong. Then take him in. Freeman did this very accurately.He did his job, as usual. Still, the old adage applies here, with Mickey's character, John: Walk a mile in another's shoes before you judge him. I feel so sorry for people who watch movies with their mind, and leave their heart, and humanity completely out of it. They miss so much.
8 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Time hasnt been kind to this movie. And rightfully so. The only good thing: the music by Ry Cooder.
imseeg17 April 2022
Wow. In a bad way, because this is some kind of silly and then some.

The bad: all (silly) looks and accents that simply do not ring true. There are so many actors try to speak with a (silly) Southern accent that it becomes laughable. That's how silly it sounds. Really annoying.

More bad: this whole story stinks. It's just a mess. And NOT credible whatsoever.

The little bit of action is cheap looking. Not thrilling whatsoever.

Not any good then? Well, the music by Ry Cooder is really great. Honestly. Too bad it is totally wasted by such a rubbish direction by Walter Hill, who could deliver something better, but he didnt...bummer.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed