JOHNNY HANDSOME is Film Noir as black as it comes. A revenge story that reaches deep into the soul, it shows us that while beauty may be only skin-deep, ugliness goes all the way through to the bone.
With director Walter Hill in peak form, the man who specialises in films about hard men in even harder situations (“The Warriors”, “The Long Riders”, “Streets of Fire”) puts his main protagonist, the anti-hero John Sedley (Mickey Rourke), through a series of challenges and ordeals that, in this case, are not so much character building as character rebuilding!
Mickey Rourke plays a malformed criminal who is betrayed by his partners (Ellen Barkin and Lance Henriksen). They also kill his best friend. In prison, Sedley is offered the chance to undergo cosmetic surgery. The operation is a success and along with his new face Sedley is also offered a new identity. Released on parole he tries to begin a new life. But haunted by the ghosts and demons of his past he sets out to avenge his friend’s murder.
Walter Hill is one of those inimitable directors, someone who not only puts their signature on a film but scrawls their name across every frame. Influenced so much by the immortal Sam Peckinpah, Walter Hill can be guaranteed to ensure that not a single character will reach the end of the film the way they started. That’s if they’re not killed on the way!
Ry Cooder, a regular collaborator with Hill, turns in a superb score full of slide guitar music with dramatic bass lines for the action sequences, while any single one of the top-notch cast (Ellen Barkin, Forest Whitaker, Morgan Freeman and Lance Henriksen) can, and often has, carried an entire film on his or her own. There’s an English saying, handsome is as handsome does. JOHNNY
HANDSOME has its own opinion on that – a very hard-boiled opinion.