Starting with "Homeboy" the year before, this charts the career-decline of Mickey Rourke.Johnny Handsome boasts a first-rate cast, a top-notch director, exquisite photography, and generally good dialogue, but overall it's the kind of underwhelming work completely undeserving of the efforts of the talented people who unwisely chose to participate in it. In its tale of a disfigured criminal given experimental reconstructive surgery while in prison and paroled soon thereafter to get a second chance in life, the movie at times seems willing at going in an unexpected direction in having the anti-hero genuinely fight the instinct to regress to his former law-breaking ways, but this manages to get lost amid all the gunshots, explosions and two-fisted macho exchanges. In a way, the lead character is a metaphor for the movie itself in refusing to go another way -- it's as stuck in its standardized Hollywood ways as Johnny is in his inherent need to steal and avenge the death of his longtime counterpart who was killed in a double-cross during a robbery where the murderers got away and which Johnny got imprisoned for. Mickey Rourke plays Johnny and for the most part plays him well, though the writing doesn't give him the kind of dramatic underpinnings that would challenge him and emotionally involve us; Johnny's more or less a cipher just so the mediocre plot can keep moving, and there are nothing but obvious sides to him -- he just doesn't engage our interest the way a title character should. And the secondary characters aren't any better. Both Lance Henriksen and Ellen Barkin are dependable thespians but have been encouraged to grossly overplay the villains so they come off as more grotesque than menacing. The usually-unsurprising Elizabeth McGovern is typically bland as the token love interest. But as the kindly doctor who heals Johnny and holds out hope for him, Forest Whitaker injects some non-cringe-worthy sincerity into the proceedings; and as the determined cop constantly hounding Johnny who he knows just can't change his ways, Morgan Freeman is solid and forceful. Too bad, though, that director Walter Hill, who helmed two spectacular classics with 48 Hrs. and Red Heat, is just going through the motions. The unimpressive action sequences lack finesse, and there's not a whisper of sustained tension; Hill's strictly doing things by rote, and the impersonal mechanics behind it all has a detachment that locks us right out of the movie. For the good of the audience, it would have been far better if Hill rather than Johnny had been the one who regressed back to his former ways.Rourke turned down "Beverly Hills Cop" because it was too "commerical" yet decided to appear in *this* blatantly commerical movie!? Ugh.