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Johnny Dangerously (Movie Review)
One of the most underrated comedies of the 1980s, Johnny Dangerously seems to have slipped under the radar of most viewers. But it’s a true gem of a comedy created in the spirit of cult hits like Airplane and The Naked Gun. Sporting an all-star cast and an endless array of hilarious scenes and one-liners, Johnny Dangerously is one of my favorite comedy movies of all time. Michael Keaton is at his best in a comedic role (much like Tom Hanks before he too moved on to more serious roles). Joe Piscopo also stars in one of his most memorable film appearances, but the show stealer is little-known actor Richard Dimitri in his portrayal of Roman Moronie – that fargin’ bastage can really act!
Set in the 1930s, Johnny Dangerously follows the life of Johnny Kelly (Michael Keaton), an honest, American boy who turns to a life of crime in order to help pay his mother’s ever-increasing medical bills. When local mobster Jocko Dundee (Peter Boyle) gets his ass saved by the enterprising young paperboy, he gives him the nickname Johnny Dangerously and hires him to work as a courier in his operation. Boyle, a superb actor in his own right (Honeymoon In Vegas and Everybody Loves Raymond), has several great stunt doubles, and from the start this movie is scene after scene of laughs…
Over the years, Johnny rises through the ranks in the Dundee gang, which wages a constant turf war with immigrant mobster Roman Moronie (Richard Dimitri). However, when Jocko is murdered, Johnny is appointed to take his place, prompting inter-gang rival Danny Vermin (Joe Piscopo) to form his own gang in direct competition with Johnny. The situation is further complicated when Johnny’s little brother, Tommy (Griffin Dunne), rises to the post of Attorney General, vowing to take on gangsters like Johnny Dangerously. When Danny Vermin discovers that Johnny and Tommy are brothers, he uses the information to his advantage – threatening to ruin Johnny and everything he holds dear…
With a cameo from Danny DeVito and Marliu Henner in a supporting role, Johnny Dangerously is packed with top talent. Well-written and absolutely hilarious, the film is another comedy classic for director Amy Heckerling (Fast Times At Ridgemont High, European Vacation, Clueless and A Night At The Roxbury). The laughs are endless in Johnny Dangerously, which is filled with scenes like Michael Keaton giving his mob buddies a pep talk about competing with “cheap, high-quality Japanese gangs” and Joe Piscopo’s warning not to hang him on a hook, because his “sister hung him on a hook once… Once!”
The key to the success of Johnny Dangerously lies in the performers and their ability to deliver the lines with absolute perfection. A cast with less comedy experience would have made this film a footnote in history. Instead, Johnny Dangerously turned out to be one of the best comedies of the decade. If you haven’t seen it (and a lot of people haven’t even heard of it), I highly recommend watching Johnny Dangerously. It’s quite simply one of the funniest movies ever made, and it’s definitely a must-watch…
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