Mickey Rourke stars as Johnny Handsome, who's not actually handsome. Seriously, he looks like a cross between Eric Stoltz in Mask and Ron Perlman in Beauty and the Beast. But when he's incarcerated after a job gone wrong in which he was set up a by a ruthless couple (Lance Henriksen and Ellen Barkin!), a doctor (Forest Whitaker) offers him a chance at a new life via plastic surgery. Suddenly, Johnny Cauliflower....errr, Handsome looks a lot like Mickey Rourke. Apparently, in 1989 terms, that makes him actually handsome. He gets out of jail, starts to see a mousy gal (Elizabeth McGovern), and seems to be on the up-and-up. Well, for a little bit. (Oh, and Morgan Freeman's here too as the cop who doesn't trust Johnny.)
The film offers a lot of the trademarks I love about Hill's films. There are dark city streets, gritty urban settings, and a lot of unique characters. The cast is a big asset, too, and Rourke is fine in the lead, especially when dealing with Freeman's questioning cop or Henriksen's baddie. Those two give fine performances (though something's wrong with Freeman's New Orleans accent) that help carry the film through some plot lulls.
The plot itself is a little jumbled, specifically when dealing with Johnny's motivations and morals. On one hand he's trying to get straight, on the other hand he wants revenge, and on the other hand he's planning a score with the people he wants revenge on. That's too many hands, and the short film doesn't spend much time dealing with them. Johnny is a sympathetic character to an extent, but one has to wonder at times due to the film's handling of him.
Johnny Handsome isn't the best thing Hill's done (see any of those films I mentioned above, plus The Driver, Hard Times, The Long Riders, Red Heat, and Southern Comfort first), but it's a good crime flick to throw on if you need to pass 90 minutes, thanks to the cast and Hill's style.