PRIZZI'S HONOR by Richard Condon

PRIZZI'S HONOR

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Damon Runyon meets Bertolt Brecht? Marie Puzo meets Preston Sturges? Well, not exactly--because it's hard to describe the occasionally funny, mostly foolish and unpleasant hybrid which Condon has concocted this time: the love story, played for laughs and blood, of two underworld hit-persons. Crude, bouncy Charley Partanna, 42, is top ""enforcer"" for the hugely powerful Prizzi crime-family; his father Angelo is the Prizzi godfather's consigliere and oldest friend. And it's at the N.Y. wedding of a Prizzi granddaughter that Charley is struck with love at first sight--when he spots classy Irene Walker with Maerose Prizzi (who almost wed Charley ten years ago, but then lost him and her honor by running off with some guy to Mexico). Charley pursues tax-consultant Irene to L.A.; he loves her; she loves him back. But then Charley learns the truth: not only is Irene really America's top female hired-killer; she's also involved in a $722,000 Las Vegas rip-off of the Prizzi family (which Charley discovers when he murders Irene's husband/accomplice). So Charley must choose between love and the Prizzi family-honor, while schemer Irene must choose between love and money--when the godfather's bitter son (Maerose's father) offers her $100,000 to kill Charley. And, for a while, both choose love (and marriage): they team up to carry out the godfather's big new kidnap scheme; and when the Prizzis find out all about Irene's scare (thanks to spurned-lover Maerose), Charley and Irene take on the whole mob--by doing some kidnapping of their own. Finally, however, after it seems as if the killer-lovers have won, with Charley slated to take over as family Boss, there's the inevitable showdown: husband and wife each now determined to do in the other. (And Charley, the victor in the death duel, jauntily picks up again with Maerose.) Believable? Not really. Hilarious? Now and then in the opening chapter--with the portrait of likable/ dumb/lethal Charley and his reactions to Irene's secret life (""What a business for a woman!""). But all too soon the lovers' matter-of-fact murdering becomes sick instead of offbeat, while Condon's cheerful non-stop vulgarity shifts from gritty to gross. And, though intermittently inspired in its low-life linguistics, this rather slow-paced, loose-plotted farce/melodrama succeeds neither as dog-eat-dog black comedy nor as Mafioso thriller/romance.

Pub Date: April 12th, 1982
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan