Those who enjoy a decent gangster film are advised to check out 1985’s Prizzi’s Honor for a number of reasons. It has a great cast, was nominated for six Academy Awards including 'Best Film' (though it took home only one, for 'Best Supporting Actress' Anjelica Huston), it's a wonderfully dark script that has a few surprising twists and turns, and a few laughs at, and with, the characters.
Corrado Prizzi (William Hickey) is the aging patriarch of New York’s Prizzi Family. His sons Dominic (Lee Richardson) and Eduardo (Robert Loggia) are his main men, and each son his own family and support staff. The family is in the crime business (no surprises there) and they're successful due to their ruthlessness, as well as comfortable and mutually beneficial arrangements with New York’s law enforcers.
Charley Parttana (Jack Nicholson) is the son of Don Corrado, Prizzi’s best friend Angelo Partanna (John Randolph), and was once engaged to Dominic’s daughter, Maerose (Anjelica Huston). Charley works for the family and is good at his job. At a family wedding, he attracts the attention of Irene Walker (Kathleen Turner) and she, likewise, attracts his. He manages to track her down and they find they have a strong attraction.
Things get tricky for Charley when he is assigned to ‘ice’ Marxie Heller (Joseph Ruskin) for stealing $720,000 from the Prizzi's, but Heller happens to be Irene’s husband, even though she told Charlie he walked out years before. Charlie is caught in the first of many tricky situations.
Irene pleads with Charlie to believe she knows nothing of her husband’s dealings with the family and Charlie, blinded by love and lust, believes her.
Charlie is engaged by the family to kidnap a prominent New York banker so the family can demand a ransom. His plan ends up involving Irene who, it turns out, is no angel and has a rather shady past as a hit woman. The kidnapping doesn't quite go to plan and the New York Police are involved in an unexpected manner. An all out war is declared by the NYPD and the family decree that the only way to avoid being wiped out is for Charlie to ‘ice’ his wife who is the centre of all the trouble. Amusingly, Domenic Prizzi, through a third party, has contracted Irene to kill Charley who he sees as a threat to his position in the family, but doesn’t know she is Charley’s wife. The cat and mouse games are bound to end in an air of mistrust and confusion.
After a slow beginning, the fun begins as the characters' complex lives and intricate comings and goings are revealed. The family, although powerful and ruthless, is just as vulnerable to charlatans and cock-ups as any legitimate business. The plot is never too difficult to follow, but there is a bit to keep track of.
The acting is very good, as you would expect of a big name cast, the direction from John Huston is likewise solid, and the attention to detail and continuity is good. While the film itself is not an epic like the Godfather trilogy, there is still much here to be enjoyed.
For a film that is a little under 20 years old, Prizzi’s Honor has not aged too well. The image is a little soft overall and colouring looks a little washed out at times, while almost cartoon-like at others. The aspect ratio of 1.78:1 is not 16:9 enhanced, and has almost certainly been reduced from a wider aspect ratio.
There is not a lot of grain in evidence, but there are numerous white sparkles and the odd piece of dirt here and there that most viewers will not notice. Black levels are okay and shadow detail is not overly great. Noise would appear not to be an issue, which comes as something of a surprise.
There is some evidence of shimmer in a few places, and some very mild edge enhancement in the final few scenes. The layer change occurs at the end of a scene at 80:53 and could have been worse.
There is little to report on the audio front. The only option is a Dolby Digital stereo track that struggles to prove at any time that it really is stereo, but one or two strategically placed sounds late in the film give the game away. The majority of the film is mono-like for the amount of separation in evidence.
There are no issues with volume or synchronisation, though the fidelity leaves a little to be desired with the whole thing sounding a little flat and pedestrian. There is but one instance of any real audio action and even that fails to really be noticed
Naturally the rear channels, subwoofer and central channels are silent. There are no subtitles and one or two instances where subtitles might have been useful.