Review: Prizzi’s Honor (1985)

Prizzi’s Honor


John Huston
Richard Condon, Janet Roach (Novel: Richard Condon)
130 min.
Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner, Robert Loggia, John Randolph, William Hickey, Lee Richardson, Michael Lombard, Anjelica Huston
MPAA Rating

Buy on DVD


Jack Nicholson, William Hickey and Anjelica Huston received Oscar nominations for their work in John Huston’s penultimate feature two years prior to his death. Prizzi’s Honor is an entertaining genre film that shows how films centered on big crime families don’t have to be the grand expositions that many came to expect following the highly successful Godfather films. The film is almost intimate in the way it portrays the Prizzi family as one built on tradition, but not devoted to the constant annihilation of those who stand in their way. There are several killings in the film and the most graphic is saved for the end, but none of them are the centerpieces of the story.

Nicholson plays Charley Partanna, the adoptive son of the head of the Prizzi family played by Hickey. While at a family wedding, he catches sight of a beautiful woman in lavender, Irene Walker (Kathleen Turner), whom he goes to great lengths to locate and eventually marry. The problem is, she’s more dangerous than he knows, as he discovers she is not only an killer for hire, but also a thief. While reconciling his feelings for her and folding her into the family, the animosity between him and his jilted ex-girlfriend Maerose Prizzi (Anjelica Huston) who also happens to be the Don’s granddaughter. And after confiding in her his concerns and frustrations about Irene, she begins scheming to try and get the two of them eliminated.

The performances are all quite outstanding from Nicholson, Huston, Hickey and Turner down to Robert Loggia, John Randolph and Lee Richardson. There are few illogical elements to the plot allowing the audience to become emotionally invested with the characters in ways that many mafia flicks have difficulty. John Huston’s confidence as a director after a productive forty-year career guides the film to success. His daughter Anjelica gives the film’s best performance. From her first scene with Nicholson at the wedding, where she’s an obvious emotional wreck is perfectly orchestrated. From there, her cleverness, emotional vindictiveness and ability to understand and utilize the family’s strict code of honor enable her to avenge the honor she has felt had been trampled while symbolically representing the entire family’s tarnished honor and the desire to put everything right again.
Review Written
October 4, 2010

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.