Saturday, February 11, 2012

Prizzi's Honor. A-

In an extraordinary career, John Huston made great movies from the very beginning (The Maltese Falcon) right up to the end. Prizzi's Honor, his penultimate feature, is like 2005's Mr. and Mrs. Smith, only far more clever, complicated, and audacious. Huston takes two major stars at the time, Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner, puts them in a mob story about two lovers who are assigned to kill each other, and steers the film into territory mainstream Hollywood today wouldn't touch. Prizzi's Honor is a joy to watch from beginning to end, a movie so dark in its humor that sometimes it's hard to actually identify it as a comedy. One of the ways to tell the movie isn't serious is that it features all the typical mobsters in their high class suits, only most of them don't have those tough, sharp Italian features you find in films like The Godfather and Goodfellas. They look more like stupid old men than dangerous criminals. William Hickey, who plays Don Prizzi, is far closer to his grumpy Uncle Lewis from Christmas Vacation than Marlon Brando's Vitto Corleone. I loved the movie's script and the surprising directions Huston took it, but if there's a problem here it's that Nicholson doesn't offer his best work, mainly because he uses an accent that masks the characteristics that make him one of our most memorable actors. But I liked Turner quite a bit, and all the supporting actors are great (ironically, John Randolph has a significant role, making that two of the old fogies from Christmas Vacation that are cast here). Huston had some misfires in his career for sure (does anyone actually like Annie? Oh, and The Mackintosh Man is one of the worst films I've ever seen). But all adventurers hit rocky terrain. They only make Huston's many classics shine brighter. Prizzi's Honor is one of them.

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