Saturday, February 13, 2010

Prizzi's Honor


Prizzi's Honor; Crime drama, USA, 1985; D: John Huston, S: Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner, John Randolph, William Hickey, Anjelica Huston, Robert Loggia

Charley Partanna is an assassin working for the Prizzis, a mafia family led by Don Corrado. On a wedding ceremony, he meets the attractive Irene from California and falls for her. After discovering that associates Marxie and Louis stole over 700,000 $ in Vegas from the Prizzi's, Charley assasinates Marxie in his house, but get surprised when he finds out that his wife is - Irene. It all becomes even more twisted when it is revealed she is also a hired assassin. Non-the-less, they still get married. While kidnapping Filargi, who secretly stole money from a bank, Irene shoots a woman who turns out to be the wife of the police comissioner. As a consequence, the police starts a merciless crackdown on the mafia business. When it is revealed that Irene kept half of Louis' stolen money, Charley assassinates her - and starts dating Maerose, Don's grandaughter.

Once an excellent film, director John Huston's penultimate work, "Prizzi's Honor" is today rather diluted and seems only like a good achievement. It is definitely a quality piece of work, cleverly written, ambitious and calm, but it ultimately somehow seems bland and at least 1/3 of it gives the impression as if it was half-heartedly directed. After a rather bizarre-messy opening where, among others, it shows the kid Charley getting a wrist puncher for Christmas, "Prizzi's" start out just like "The Godfather", unfolding during a wedding to show many characters on one place and display what makes them tick, and even later on does it try to imitate the above mentioned classic when it shows the mafia organization.

However, the first 40 minutes of the film seem staged, stiff and lax, especially when Jack Nicholson's Charley suddenly confesses his love to Irene so fast, even though it doesn't seem natural at all. There simply isn't that much chemistry between the two of them. Likewise, Nicholson's Italian accent is rather unnecessary. Also, it's not quite clear why some describe the film as a comedy - among others, it won a Golden Globe as best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy - since this is a crime drama and contains approximately as much humor as the first 10 minutes of "Back to the Future", which should have won that award instead. The best part of the "Prizzi's" comes from two very sharp plot tangles, the one where Charley assassinates Marxie in his home and waits for his wife, but it turns out its Irene (!), and the other when it turns out Irene is an assassin herself, which offers some contemplative messages about love, loyalty and betrayal in their world.

Grade:++

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