It’s pretty hilarious to see old 80s movies drudged up and given a bit of spit and polish whenever its star is given a bit of rejuvenation in the public eye. Such is the case for two titles from Lionsgate—both Lock Up, starring Sylvester Stallone, and Johnny Handsome, starring Mickey Rourke, tout the films as if they’ll be something brilliant. They even feature a sticker that advertises Stallone’s next big action film, The Expendables, on the cover. Also for some reason it seems Lionsgate has inherited the rights to every crappy 80s action movie ever made because these films they drudge up are some truly terrible wastes of time.
From the director of 48 Hours, this hard-edged drama follows John Sedley (Oscar nominee Mickey Rourke; Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, The Wrestler, 2008) as a petty gangster whose facial deformities earned him the nickname “Johnny Handsome.” When Johnny and a friend are double-crossed during a robbery by their two partners, his friend is killed and Johnny is sent to prison. However, inside jail, a sympathetic surgeon makes a deal to give Johnny a new face and a new shot at life. Once on the outside, Johnny discovers that staying straight isn’t easy as his new look opens the door for revenge.
This has become a favorable time for Mickey Rourke, whose career has been getting a healthy resurgence first with “The Wrestler,” and recently with “Iron Man 2.” Naturally studios like to go back through their archives whenever this sort of resurrection occurs, and attempt to get some quick cash on past projects – especially those that wouldn’t see release otherwise. This time around it’s Mickey Rourke’s venture as an 80’s action star, which I would doubt even some of the biggest Rourke fans would have heard of. First released into the world in 1989, it’s always interesting to look into movies such as these to gauge how well the 80’s action genre has fared after two decades.
Walter Hill’s movies have always had a bit of a cult status surrounding them and chances are if you know his name then you already know this movie. A lot of his films seemed to inspire newer outings from artists like Quentin Tarantino and Johnny Handsome is probably one of Hill’s more star studded pictures—although at the time it certainly wasn’t. It’s hard not to gawk at this cast list now though—Mickey Rourke, Morgan Freeman, Forest Whitaker and Lance Henriksen. It’s also remarkable to think that while this is very much a film noir/B-style kind of movie, nearly all of the actors are at the top of their game here. It’s easy to see how Rourke was able to rebound after all these years—he has always had remarkable acting talent. Even in a scenario like the one painted in Johnny Handsome, Rourke manages to effortlessly work his way through the material with what I wouldn’t call exact ease, but enough that his performance alone drives the whole film.
I genuinely expected to pop this disc in and dislike it as much as I disliked Lock Up, but color me surprised. I seem to be a sucker for film noir type films and had I know that going in I probably would’ve been more open to it at first. Either way though I can’t help but Recommend this film; I may still be in shock from it not being an absolutely terrible film and that recommendation may haunt me in weeks or years to come, but for now it’s something definitely worth checking out if you’re into the film noir genre.
Lionsgate releases Lock Up on Blu-ray in a single disc Elite Blu-ray case. Inside is the disc which boasts the same art as the cover and an insert advertising other Lionsgate titles (of which they picture Bangkok Dangerous…seriously? There was nothing better to put on there?). Menus are simple and easy to navigate (what few of them there are).
Video is a 1080p 1.85:1 transfer and it’s clear they didn’t try to clean it up much. It’s very dated looking, but considering the previous Region 1 DVD release was in fullscreen, the fact they even gave us a proper widescreen transfer in of itself is quite surprising. Considering it’s pushing past twenty years old at this point it doesn’t look overly terrible, but there are copious amounts of film grain and whatnot floating around it. Even through this the detail of the picture remains relatively strong, except for low light scenes where things get kind of messy (particularly at the end of the film—the final scenes are very blurry looking). Paired with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix, which is sadly rather flat at times, the film looks and sounds as it’s ever going to be, short of a full restoration…which I doubt Lionsgate would ever want to spend money on.
Extras include three all-new featurettes:
Wordsmith (12:39, HD)
Eye of the Beholder (10:15, HD)
Action Man (11:12, HD)
Theatrical Trailer (1:30, HD)
Little over half an hour worth of new content—definitely not bad for a film I’ve (and likely many others) never heard of. Overall a Recommended disc for both newcomers and fans looking to upgrade.
Johnny Handsome arrives on Blu-ray on July 27th.