John Huston is a legendary director who I don’t know nearly enough about and whose movies I haven’t seen nearly enough of. Jack Nicholson is an actor who I generally enjoy, but I would never see him as a reason to see a movie. Kathleen Turner and Angelica Huston are two broads who I don’t really get. But the combination of all of these random people was intriguing enough for me to watch Prizzi’s Honor without knowing a single thing about its story.
Charlie Partanna (Nicholson) is a hitman for the New York Prizzi crime family. At a mob wedding, he sees Irene Walker (Turner) and is immediately obsessed. Tracking her down in LA, Irene initially claims to be some sort of financial adviser. But Charlie soon learns that like him, Irene is also a killer for hire. This only makes his interest in her stronger, and soon, the two have eloped and married.
In New York, it turns out that the Prizzi family has an interest in Irene as well. Her ex stole a butt load of money and the Prizzis think Irene may have it. The addition of Maerose Prizzi (Huston) being an old flame of Charlie’s who may not be completely over him, means that the small world of organised crime is closing in around Charlie and Irene in a variety of ways, professional and personal.
Here’s what surprised me most about Prizzi’s Honor, Jack Nicholson is acting, actually playing a character. Normally Jack Nicholson just plays Jack Nicholson. He’s one of those dudes who never lets a character get in the way of his personal quirks and ticks. But as Charlie Partanna, Nicholson puts on a voice and accent, he wears some variety of fake teeth or mouth prosthetic to slightly change his physical appearance, and he tones down his voice enough that it doesn’t sound like someone doing a Jack Nicholson impression.
And while that was pleasant surprise and a bit of a novelty, it’s not nearly enough to make Prizzi’s Honor worth watching. Tonally, it’s all over the place and I could never tell what kind of movie John Huston was trying to make. Is it a dark comedy? Is it a goofy farce? Is it a gritty crime drama? It’s bad enough that I don’t know the answer to those questions. What’s even worse is, I don’t think anyone in front of or behind the camera knew when they were making the movie either.