Thanks to a snafu with my internet, I was offline for the past two days. Oh well; the past’s the past. Back to the grind. Next up in my Huston-a-thon is Huston’s penultimate film, and once again shows Huston is a director of the times. Prizzi’s Honor is a bit of an anomaly in the films of his I’ve seen; to me, Huston doesn’t normally do comedy, even a black comedy like this. But here we are, and here the film is, and it was just as enjoyable as Huston’s other films, which is to say it was modestly so. Modest seems to be the best word for Huston’s films, if his standout classics are any example to go by. I don’t know if this would qualify as a “standout classic”; it’s not old enough, and I’m unsure if it ever will be, but it was entertaining nonetheless.
Jack Nicholson stars as Charley Partanna, the go-to hitman for the mobster Prizzi family. He falls for Kathleen Turner’s character, Irene Walker, and they get married in a whirlwind romance. Turns out, Irene is a contract killer for mob families as well; troubles arise, circumstances are changed, and Irene and Charley are hired to kill each other. Or so the publicity would have you believe. The plot of the film is actually much more involved than such a simple twist; this is all about how a mob family operates, even in the face of unfortunate coincidence, and the title of the film, Prizzi’s Honor, is aimed directly at that aspect of the story. I won’t go into too much depth about the plot, since almost anything from the second half of the film onward would be a spoiler, but suffice it to say, there’s a lot more than just having Irene and Charley hired to kill each other (which, mild spoiler, doesn’t even occur at the same time). For a mob movie, this has a hell of a sense of humor. Maybe it was just the whimsical score that put that black comedy edge to the story, but this was much more light-handed than almost any other mob film out there. The performances, as well, were very solid all around (though I don’t think Nicholson really stretched himself or did enough to warrant the Oscar nom he got for this); standouts include Anjelica Huston as the devilishly candid Maerose Prizzi, in a role she would win an Oscar for, and William Hickey as the don of the Prizzi family – he really steals the show every time he is on screen, including the one scene with Maerose, where he offers her a cookie as only a mob boss can.
This had a lot of heart, but it didn’t let that get in the way of telling a great story. The Book’s excerpt on this one mentioned that the ending, rather than be the one the audience wants, is the one the story deserves, and that is a spot-on assessment. That’s a feat that too few films nowadays are bold and brave enough to do; there’s too much incentive to just film a crowd-pleaser so that audiences will like it enough to tell their friends to see it, or see it again, or buy it on video/DVD, or otherwise improve the profit of the film unnecessarily. It’s the films that have the gumption to tell the type of stories that stick with you, that will be remembered long after the theatrical run is over. That said, I liked this a good deal, but once again, I’m not convinced this is a “must see before you die”. It was thoroughly enjoyable, and I recommend it, but to go out of your way to hunt this one down and watch it might be asking a bit much. I don’t think I’ll ever need to see this one again, and that’s points off for me, but for what it was worth, it was pretty good.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10