A promising idea is gunned down by sickening violence and a downbeat ending in Johnny Handsome, a Mickey Rourke vehicle [based on The Three Worlds of Johnny Handsome by John Godey].
At the outset, John Sedley (Rourke) is anything but handsome. Born with a cleft palate and badly disfigured face, he’s struggled through life and wound up a petty criminal.
Johnny is sent to the pen where he comes to the attention of kindly Dr Resher (Forest Whitaker), a plastic surgeon who, after a series of painful ops, has Johnny looking like Mickey Rourke. Johnny is allowed out of prison each day to work on the docks, where he meets pretty accountant Elizabeth McGovern and a relationship blossoms.
But Johnny isn’t content with his new circumstances: he wants revenge. He plots with his old gang members (who don’t recognize him) to rob the dockyard payroll, meaning to double-cross them. It all leads to a grim, violent downer of an ending.
Rourke works hard at his character but fails to make Johnny the least bit sympathetic. Ellen Barkin creates one of the ugliest femme characters seen in recent films, while Lance Henriksen is typecast as yet another seedy hood.