Johnny Handsome

There’s a line between Walter Hill, Sam Peckinpah and Don Siegel, all of whom I’ve blogged about before.

Don started out making montages for films like Scarface in the 20s. He was a young man in the editing room; he knew montage and how to cut. Peckinpah worked with Don (even acting in Invasion of the Body Snatchers). When Peckinpah became a director he worked on a script written by a young man called Walter Hill.

The line connects them all and they all have a very similar style. Compare the opening scenes of Peckinpah’s The Getaway to the opening of Hill’s Johnny Handsome.

The style goes all the way back to the cutting room of Don Siegel. Making montages which were often far better than the films they were inserted into.

Johnny Handsome from 1989 features Mickey Rourke looking like he used to look and looking how he looks now. Did this film and the part of Johnny have some sort of warped effect on Rourke? Who knows…?

A tight script, direction so tight that you couldn’t get a cigarette paper between the shots. Modern noir photography in New Orleans, a great score by Ry Cooder. This is a very underrated film. However, what makes it really worth seeing? Easy, Ellen Barkin.

Barkin is a good actress, but in this she’s great. Ferociously she eats up scenes and out muscles all the muscle men. Lance Henrikssen nearly matches her in depravity but he doesn’t or can’t go as down and dirty as our Ellen.

Morgan Freeman is also good, and for once very unlikeable as the cop.

So, 48 films to go…

Matthew Cooper has written for Emmerdale, Eastenders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs. He was winner of the first ever Lloyds Bank Channel Four Film Challenge and the Oscar Moore Screenplay Prize. His first short film starred a then unknown Ewan McGregor and was picked up by Channel Four when Matthew was 19 years old. He’s been a script writer for hire and filmmaker for hire for over 20 years.