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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Walter Hill

Johnny Handsome (1989)

It kills to look so good.

Due to a disfigured face, John (Mickey Rourke) has spent most of his life either being ridiculed, or never understood. The only thing that he really knows to do in life is set up heists and have them to according to plan. And for his latest one, everything works out perfectly, with all of the money being taken, and very little casualties, until, well, he gets double-crossed and left to be arrested by the cops. John is soon taken into custody where a doctor who specializes in facial-reconstruction surgery (Forest Whitaker) wants to test something out on John and see, if at all possible, he can get him to look like a normal person. It works, but of course, John himself has a lot to get used to, with people not staring at him any longer. And then, sooner than later, John’s out of jail, back on the streets, and ready to be an everyday, law abiding citizen. But before he does any of that, he wants to get revenge on the two criminals, Sunny Boyd (Ellen Barkin) and Rafe Garrett (Lance Henriksen), who screwed him over in the first place.

Eric Stoltz?

Johnny Handsome is an odd movie because, as is the case with most of Hill’s movies, it seems like it wants to be two different one simultaneously. There’s one aspect that wants to be this goofy, high-concept heist-thriller with guns, action, violence, drugs, booze, and cursing, but then there’s this other, that wants to be a thoughtful, quiet and small character-study about this guy Johnny and how he learns to get along with life after finding a new lease on it. By no means has Hill ever been considered the most perfect director for heart-warming tales of humanity, so obviously, the later story doesn’t quite work out for him.

But at least the former does.

And yes, that’s exactly where Johnny Handsome works, in the grit and the action of the tale. As is usually the case, Hill knows how to craft a solid action-sequence, whether it’s a heist scene, or a brawl between two characters, and it just goes to show you what the guy can do, when the material is there for him to play around with. Sure, has he had better action movies on his plate than this one here? Sure, but it also helps that Hill gets a chance to revel in the sleeze that this tale sometimes promises getting to the nitty gritty of. Of course, it doesn’t quite go as far as it should with that, but it gets close enough to make it feel like a worthwhile effort, on the part of Hill’s.

It’s just that, once again, the movie also wants to be something of a stern, serious character-study that, at the center, does have something interesting to say about Johnny himself. But of course, it’s trapped in this wild and rather wacky B-movie that knows what it is, when it’s doing its thing, but when it’s getting away from that, it feels weird. It’s as if Hill knew that there was some true dramatic promise with this premise and did want to develop it a tad bit more, but also didn’t want to scare too many others away from how melodramatic he was able and willing to get.

It’s an odd mix-and-match Hill has to work with here and honestly, in the hands of a much better director, it probably would have worked. Not to say that Hill isn’t a good director, but you can tell his specialties do heavily lie on action, not drama.

I’d hang with them. Maybe not rob a bank, but definitely hang.

But hey, at least the cast is pretty great.

Mickey Rourke, in what would probably be one of the last performances for awhile where he actually seemed to give a crap, does a solid job as Johnny, even though, like I’ve said before, he may be in a tad bit of a different movie. He’s doing his usual cool, calm and collected brooding thing we’ve seen from him before, which may seem a tad dull, but makes sense in the general sense of the story and just who this character is. It would have been nice to see him play this character in a less messier movie, but hey, at least Rourke’s good here.

The real fun from the cast comes from the supporting side. Lance Henriksen is evil and detestable as one of the baddies who rip-off Johnny; Morgan Freeman plays a cop who is on Johnny’s ass from the get-go and seems to push him way too far at times; Elizabeth McGovern is very much playing it serious like Rourke, but is interesting enough to watch; Forest Whitaker plays his doctor character a little creepy, which works; and Ellen Barkin, well, steals the show as Sunny Boyd. As Boyd, Barkin gets to let loose, showing that she can be beautiful, sexy, and a little bit dangerous, never allowing you to fully trust her, but also kind of love her, too. She clearly came ready to play and it’s why her performance is the one worth remembering when all is said and done.

Consensus: Even despite the mess it eventually becomes, Johnny Handsome still gets by on its thrills and excitement given by its talented ensemble.

6 / 10

Oh, there’s the Mickey we all know, love and recognize. Basically, right before he started boxing, for some reason.

Photos Courtesy of: The Film Connoisseur
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Extreme Prejudice (1987)

It’s the small towns you’ve got to worry about the most.

Jack Benteen (Nick Nolte) is a Texas Ranger who has taken a very different path than his childhood buddy, Cash Bailey (Powers Boothe), a ruthless drug lord, who stumbles back into town, looking to cause all sorts of havoc in the area and most importantly, for Jack himself. Though both men are very different in terms of their careers, their lives, and what sides of the law they each stand on, they do have one aspect in common: They’re both in love with Sarita Cisneros (Maria Conchita Alonso), who has been involved with both men, but chooses to stay with Jack, even though they constantly seem to fight all of the time. The tension between these two begins to escalate over the next few days, and to make matters worse, there’s a group of rag-tag veterans who are staging some sort of mission. But what is it? What is there purpose for being in this small town? And hell, are they dangerous?

“You….”

Extreme Prejudice is clearly Walter Hill’s ode/homage to the Dirty Dozen that it almost goes without saying. It’s a western, without seeming like an old-school western that relies on the same old tropes, but instead, uses some neat tricks with its story to make it seem way more modern. Cause after all, Hill already made a out-and-true western with the Long Riders, so it’s basically like he doesn’t have much else to prove in that genre, except to show that he can use it as a stepping-stone for going out into his usual crazy barrage of guns, violence, blood, and oh yeah, a whole lot of cursing.

But for a Walter Hill movie, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It helps that Hill knows what he’s doing, when the material’s there to work with and have fun with. Both Deric Washburn and Fred Rexer wrote the screenplay and know not to make this story too difficult, or even all that meaningful – just give us a few bad guys, a good guy, some conflict, and lots and lots of guns. The rest, in Hill’s hands, is history.

Which is why the final-act of Extreme Prejudice, as well as the few other action set-pieces spread-out across, are all exciting, fun, and downright electric. They feel perfectly thought-out and constantly keep on surprising, what with where the violence goes and how. Hill isn’t considered a master at his craft by any means and he sure as hell will never be called an “artist”, but the man knows how to craft a solid, compelling, and fun action-scene, which in today’s day, that means a whole lot.

Basically, we could use a whole lot more of Walter Hill in our life and while we do still get his movies, they just aren’t the same anymore.

Shame, too.

“Me….”

But anyway, the reason why I’m going on and on about the action so much is because, well, there’s a bit of a problem with the story, in that there may be a little too much. Or, at least, let me put it this way: There’s essentially two different plots going on here, with both being mildly interesting, but also pretty different from one another. For instance, there’s Nolte’s Jack who is feuding with Powers Boothe’s Cash, which doesn’t start cooking-up until the end and seems like a lot of talking and not much else, whereas the other plot, involving Michael Ironside’s group of bad-ass veterans, is fast-paced, interesting and, well, unique. It’s as if Washburn wrote one part of the movie, Rexer wrote the other, and they tried to combine it all together in one, seamless package.

But that’s what’s odd, because it doesn’t quite fully come together in that sense. Jack’s tale is far more dramatic and, as a result, slower, whereas Ironside’s is quicker and a whole lot more exciting to watch, even if we know it seems to be happening in almost entirely different movie. Hill works well with both stories, however, which is why the movie isn’t totally destroyed by this uneven thread, but still, it’s a bit choppy, to say the least.

And yes, it also helps that Ironside’s performance is pretty great here where he, once again, gets to play a bit of a nutty psycho who, somehow, has everything ready to go according to plan. In fact, almost everyone here is playing very much with their type; Nolte is stern and serious, Boothe is cold and dark, Rip Torn is fun and light, William Forsythe is crazy, and Alonso is, well, very attractive, but unfortunately, doesn’t get to be much else. Hill knows how to let his actors let loose when they need to and because of that, it helps a lot of the boring characters, work a bit better.

If only for the company they keep.

Consensus: While uneven, Extreme Prejudice is still a solid bit of action-thriller from the reliable hands of Walter Hill, who’s clearly enjoying what he’s doing here.

7 / 10

“Let’s tango.”

Photos Courtesy of: Radiator Heaven

Bullet to the Head (2013)

Rocky traded in his gloves, for a junk-load of guns and nobody cared. Poor guy.

After hitman Jimmy “Bobo” (Sylvester Stallone) is set up on a hit on him and his partner gets killed for it by a ruthless mercenary named Keegan (Jason Momoa), he isn’t quite happy so therefore, he sets out to gain revenge on these rat bastards who put a bounty on his head. Seems like a simple job of killing people, getting money, and relaxing with a bottle of whisky at the end of the day, for Bobo, but it all gets a bit screwed up once a detective (Sung Kang) gets in the way and try to get them to work together, and if not, well, then Bobo’s going to jail for all of the bad shite that he’s done in the past. Obviously Bobo would much rather take the job than the price to pay, but it becomes harder and harder for these two to really get along and actually come to terms that one of them has to go to jail for something, along the line.

First, Arnie got his big comeback movie that bombed, and now Sly gets his comeback movie, and it bombed as well. What’s the dealio, folks?!?! Even though the latter’s bomb wasn’t as bad as the former’s, it’s still sad to know that these two guys, despite the action icons that they once were, and still are in a way today, can’t seem to cut a break with the current movie-going audience as people can’t really accept older dudes still kicking ass, shooting guns, and having the coolest things to say, as if they were still in their late-20’s/early 30’s. It doesn’t work on us anymore and it’s a shame too, because these guys will always and forever be in our hearts, even if their names may not be attached to our tickets. Sad, sad, sad. But hey, at least they still have some fun for the most part, right?

Well, I can’t lie, but yeah, they do. The Last Stand was a pretty entertaining movie that knew it was dumb and had a fun time being so, and this movie is sort of the same thing, with obvious differences seen. Actually, probably one of the main differences between the two is that that one was probably a lot better, whereas this one is just something that you watch, have fun with, but are really reminded that you lost your brain for an hour-and-a-half. I mean, yeah; Arnie’s movie wasn’t on top of the IQ level either, but hell, at least it didn’t have me feel like I just smoked a ton of pot by all of the brain cells that I lost.

"Oooh! Close one! Nice job!"

“Oooh! Close one! Nice job!”

That’s exactly what this flick made me feel like when it was over and yeah, maybe that’s the point, but at least more effort and time could have been put into this thing. Then again, the fact that it was pushed-back two years from it’s original release date, and that Walter Hill hasn’t really made a good movie in awhile, I guess I can sort of see why it’s so bad at times. The tone is just all-over-the-place, because it can’t make up it’s mind as to whether or not it wants to be a buddy-cop comedy or a straight-up action thriller, with Sly’s little comments on the side. There are times when the movie seems like it wants to be funny with Sly and Kang, and there are other times where it seems like it wants to be serious and melodramatic with it’s action, guns,  and violence, but it never makes sense of which way it’s going.

It’s almost as if Hill got stuck in the middle of an intersection, had his GPS fizzle out on him, and he just sat there, called  AAA, and continued to wait and wait until someone or something saved him. Stupid analogy, I know, but it’s all that I could come up with, since Hill didn’t seem to come up with anything else here, other than a bunch of scenes of people using a bunch of exposition, going from point-A to point-B, and saying that they are going to kill the other one in a violent, scary way. That’s all there is to it, and when the action actually does come around and liven things up a bit; it doesn’t do it’s job like it should, which is a huge bummer since we know where Hill and Sly come from.

So, why the hell was this such a bummer?!?!

It’s rated-R, it has blood, it has shooting, it has violence, and it even has nudity (thank the high heavens for Sarah Shahi), so why the hell does this flick not capitalize on the fact that it could have been something straight from the 80’s? I honestly have no clue, but with all of the shaky-cam elements and the toning back of being violent and brutal, just for the sake of being so, I can tell that Sly and Hill’s control sort of got lessened-down, month by month, once this movie began to make it’s way to the theaters. It’s a real shame too, because together, you’d think that these guys would have had a total blast working together and would want to show it; but something didn’t feel right here. I guess I just wanted a bit more than I was given. So be it, I’m greedy.

But if there was anybody at all involved with this movie that seemed to be having fun, it was Sly himself as Bobo, a great character for a great action star. Sly may be getting older, but in terms of his acting and his physical-being; it does not show. Yeah, the dude is 66 and you’ll sometimes wonder how a man of his age and his stature can still do half of the shit that Bobo does, but you’ll be willing to forgive and forget about it once Sly takes out the guns (literal and joking sense), starts hammering away at some baddies, and uses some of the best lines I’ve heard him use in quite some time. He makes fun of the fact that he’s getting older and what he used to do back in the day, but it isn’t as jokey as his Expendables movies are.

"See, dad? Because you weren't there for me when I was growing up, I now look like the walls in the Subway."

“See, dad? Because you weren’t there for me when I was growing up, I now look like the side streets of Philly.”

Everybody else compared to Sly, are disappointments. However, not huge ones because you can tell that they were only doing it for the money, and weren’t too concerned with how their careers looked after it was over. You could have gotten rid of Sung Kang in this movie and I would have not noticed a single lick of a difference here whatsoever, except that the movie would have probably sped-up a lot quicker and even been better in most areas, too. It’s not that the dude’s bad, but the script he’s given is such crap, that he doesn’t have much development or emotional connection to this story whatsoever, that you just wish Sly would flip his switch and kill him off. He isn’t as annoying as I may make him sound, but he sure as hell is boring and a waste of time to watch, especially when he’s next to Sly who seems like he’s just having a grand time being himself, and nothing else.

Consensus: There is plenty of dumb, silly, and nonsensical violence and action to be found in Bullet to the Head that will still make you feel as if you are watching an old-school movie, starring a very old-school Stallone, but everything else around him goes terribly, terribly wrong in their own ways that it brings him, as well as the movie, down to near-boredom.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"You're so old that nobody goes to see your movies unless you have all of your other OLD friends with you. Okay, should I leave now?"

“You’re so old that nobody goes to see your movies unless you have all of your other OLD friends with you. Okay, should I leave now?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net