Johnny Handsome - The handsome Johnny

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
German title Johnny Handsome - The handsome Johnny
Original title Johnny Handsome
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1989
length 87 minutes
Age rating FSK 16
Director Walter Hill
script Ken Friedman
production Mario Kassar
Charles Roven
Andrew G. Vajna
music Ry Cooder
camera Matthew F. Leonetti
cut Donn Aron
Carmel Davies
Freeman A. Davies

Johnny Handsome - The beautiful Johnny ( Johnny Handsome ) is an American film drama by Walter Hill from the year 1989 . The literary source is the novel The Three Worlds of Johnny Handsome ( The Three Faces of Johnny Handsome ) by John Godey.


John Sedley is serving his sentence as a forced laborer in prison for a robbery after he was betrayed by his accomplices, the criminal couple Sunny Boyd and Rafe Garrett. These two also killed John's friend Mikey, who was with the robbery. John's face has been disfigured since birth. He is offered mitigation if he reveals the identity of his accomplices. John does not respond.

In prison, John is attacked and injured at Garrett's behest. He's going to a hospital. The doctor who worked there, Dr. Steven Resher heads a project that observes whether plastic surgery can positively change the social behavior of convicted criminals due to the resulting environmental acceptance of their appearance. John is operated on several times. The operations succeed. His repulsive face has turned into the exact opposite: he is now an exceptionally handsome man whose face is spontaneously attractive to his surroundings. John is given outdoor status and a new identity as a former naval officer.

John Sedley finds a job in a shipyard. There he now has no trouble finding a friend quickly: the pretty young colleague Donna McCarty from the payroll department.

He wants to avenge the death of his friend Mikey on the former accomplices Sunny and Garrett and persuades the two to steal the salaries paid by the shipyard. He hopes Sunny and Garrett will be caught and punished. Donna McCarty implores John to abandon the plan so as not to endanger John's new life. John doesn't listen to them. He throws her out of his apartment and provokes a breakup through aggressive and playful indifferent behavior.

John, Sunny and Garrett rob the shipyard's payroll vault. The superintendent, who was investigating John earlier, had watched John during his free time because he did not believe in the purification project. He'll find it quickly now. John had just taken the stolen money to a money launderer he knew. The superintendent lets Sedley go to meet the accomplices Sunny and Garrett, who have kidnapped John's ex-girlfriend Donna in order to get John to surrender the stolen money. The robbers find old photos of Sedley before his facial surgery in a drawer in Donna's apartment, which reveal his true identity to them.

The money is handed over. The brutal thug Garrett beats John half to death. At the crucial moment, John does not manage to defend himself effectively, as his story as an ugly step catches up with him again and paralyzes his will to fight. Garrett injures John's head and face, he wants to give him back his old face in revenge . Garrett forces John to open the suitcase himself, suspecting a bomb in the suitcase. John opens the suitcase. There's a gun in there and he shoots Garrett and Sunny. He himself was shot deadly during the shooting.

The inspector finally arrives and remarks sarcastically in view of the dead that John has done a great job .

John's body and face are badly injured on the floor. His fearful question about his face, which has been damaged again, is soothed in his final minutes by Donna, who gives him hope of being completely restored. One of the final shots shows John lying on the floor with his head tilted to one side and eyes closed - this indicates that he has succumbed to his injuries.


Roger Ebert wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times on September 29, 1989 that the film draws on the atmosphere of 1940s film noir , which would show dark streets and characters living in cool apartments. The location of New Orleans has the "soul" of film noir. Director Walter Hill and actor Mickey Rourke would go down a difficult path. The cast of the supporting roles was "top-class" ("unusually distinguished"), the style of the pictures was "realistic".

“The direct and straightforward dialogues make a real impression due to their simplicity. That is why the action-drama can touch and carry you away, because the emotions, they are honest and the film never pretends or tries to sell itself as more or better than it actually is. 'Johnny Handsome' is convincing in the guise of a very coherent B-movie, mixed with elements of film noir. The outsider story goes to the heart and as an exciting thriller, 'Johnny Handsome' captivates without compromise. Much more cannot be asked of a film that never overestimates itself. "

- René Malgo :

"With 'Johnny Handsome', director Walter Hill has succeeded in creating an interesting and gripping drama that is not always captivating, but is still entertaining."

- Thomas Ays :

Narrative dramaturgy

The physical distortion of the main character can be read on the subtext level as the psychological stigmatization of someone who has been stepped on. Despite the reversal of the stigma in attractiveness, the figure cannot shake off the entanglement in revenge, guilt, and atonement acquired through the old stigmatization. Even pure love, embodied in the figure of Donna, fails against the previous burden. The experience of violence continues and brings John back "to his place" as a stigmatized. The artificially imposed beauty tempted him to take actions that he would have refrained from as a person stigmatized by birth and ultimately does not bring him happiness, but rather brings death.


The film was shot in Louisiana . Its world premiere took place on September 12, 1989 at the Toronto Film Festival . It grossed $ 7.2 million in US cinemas .

Al Pacino was interested in the lead role at times and worked on the script. Due to the dissatisfaction with the script, he left the project.

The project attempt of the doctor in the film, whose hope is a change of the delinquent towards more socially acceptable behavior through "positive feedback" from the environment, borrows from the theorem of operant conditioning of the psychologist and main exponent of behaviorism - Burrhus Frederic Skinner .

Individual evidence

  1. Release certificate for Johnny Handsome - The beautiful Johnny . Voluntary self-regulation of the film industry , December 2012 (PDF; test number: 63 320 V).
  2. ^ Review by Roger Ebert
  3. ^ Review on accessed on September 7, 2011
  4. Critique on accessed on September 7, 2011
  5. Filming locations for Johnny Handsome
  6. Start dates for Johnny Handsome  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  7. ^ Business Data for Johnny Handsome
  8. This and that for Johnny Handsome

Web links