Monday, March 23, 2009

Catching up with Walter Hill's JOHNNY HANDSOME on its 20th anniversary.

In the wake of Mickey Rourke's Academy Award-nominated comeback in THE WRESTLER, there's been a revival of interest in his work from roughly the early 80s to early 90s. In fact, the Best Buy I went to a few days ago in Canyon Country, CA had a special Mickey Rourke display.

Last Tuesday, I went to the closing-by-midsummer Virgin Megastore on Hollywood Boulevard and bought a standard DVD of JOHNNY HANDSOME--a mostly-forgotten Rourke-starrer from 1989--for $10.

The storyline--disfigured Louisiana criminal gets a second chance after experimental plastic surgery turns him physically "acceptable"--is serviceable enough.

While the film isn't top-tier Walter Hill (who directed) or Mickey Rourke, it has enough incidental pleasures to make it worth renting or buying at a low price. The performances of Lance Henriksen and Ellen Barkin (as a sort of bayou Boris-and-Natasha), a pre-wise-old-sage Morgan Freeman (when he was still allowed to be edgy) and Elizabeth McGovern (making something fairly substantive out of a standard good-woman role) will hold the viewer's interest. And the running time is a reasonably quick 93 minutes.

Given how low the quality bar is being set for 2009 mainstream theatrical film releases, subpar entries in the Walter Hill filmography (see also RED HEAT, ANOTHER 48 HOURS, LAST MAN STANDING) are beginning to improve with age.

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