Johnny Skidmarks (1998) Poster

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low-key but compelling
litgeekgrrl21 June 2004
I found Skidmarks absolutely compelling. Peter Gallagher plays a crime-scene photographer with a sideline of blackmailing men who take his prostitute friend to motels. Gallagher, whom I've not much liked in other movies, does a terrific job as the numb, depressed antihero, unaffected by the crime scenes and accident scenes he photographs until his fellow blackmailers start turning up as victims. The movie is full of deadpanned quips and black humor (e.g., the exchange between McDormand and Gallagher when she's trying to pick him up in a hamburger joint. McDormand, cool and tough: "Do you have a name?" Gallagher: "Yeah. Do you?") The film is not flashy enough ever to have made it big, but the plot and characters are utterly original and the acting is uniformly excellent.
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An Infinitely Diggable Flick
Digger-817 November 1998
This is a really interesting movie that I thoroughly dug and enjoyed. It's part intense character study, part paranoid suspense-thriller, part chase movie. The setup is this: John Scardino is a police crime & accident scene photog who is emotionally numb inside and moonlights as the lens man for an extortion ring, taking dirty snaps of compromised businessmen in their undies with a saucy hooker named Lorraine in sleazy motel rooms. Suddenly, Scardino starts seeing the blackmail crew from his night job turning up as corpses in his day job in seemingly unrelated homicides. Scardino is the only one who notices the connection, but he can't say squat without revealing his involvement in a criminal enterprise! He rediscovers his emotional inner self by getting major league heebie-jeebies trying to figure out who the killer is. He's taken so many snaps over the years, it could be just about anybody. No one can be trusted! Halfway through, the movie explodes open and turns really grisly and intense--be prepared!

The acting--by Peter Gallagher, Frances McDormand, John Lithgow, Jack Black, Geoffrey Lower, John Kapelos, Charlie Spradling and Lee Arenberg--is great and infinitely diggable. The dialogue is really wry and darkly funny, as is the music. And the movie's look has a kind of Edward Hopper-film noir thing going that I also really dug.

Not a lot of people saw this flick when it first came out. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, then went straight to HBO. Which is weird, because it's so good. This one's a real find. Go forth and dig it!

--Richard Terhune, The Movie Digger
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A photographer without talent turns to crime and is stalked by one of his victims.
Deusvolt12 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Johnny's last name is Scardino so why did they call him Skidmarks? Although it wasn't explained in the movie, it is obvious that the moniker had something to do with his occupation - a crime and accident scene photographer. He took photos of vehicle skid marks, see? It seems that Skidmarks was not a regular police employee but a freelance photographer who got assignments from the cops to take photos of crime scenes, similar to a reporter on "string" basis. Obviously, he didn't have much talent otherwise he would have been into photography involving advertising, modeling, art or whatnot. He reminds me of itinerant photographers who used to frequent parks, churches and tourist spots and overcharged for their unimaginative photos.

And so Skidmarks made a living taking flash photos of gruesome scenes. As long as the pictures were clear and showed everything the investigators wanted, they were OK. Doubtless his dreadful job had made Johnny morally numb. He really didn't even "see" the subjects of his photos. Which was why he was into a blackmailing racket where his co-conspirators faked police raids while he took photos of men caught in compromising positions with prostitutes. In one of these raids, the victim turned out to be a "friend," a detective in the police force who frequently engaged his services. But because he has been so inured to the reality of crime and the unpleasantness he encountered daily in his work, he did not recognize his friend. It seems that he completely detached himself from the scene so that he did not hear his friend's pleas to help him.His failure to do so leads to a series of murders.

This is certainly not a "feel good" movie. It is tragic but not a tragedy because the hero lacks both honor and hubris. Nevertheless, it is a riveting watch as it combines character study and suspense. One's sympathy goes out to both Skidmarks and the murderer who whacked the members of his gang and stalks him.
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Very enjoyable presentation, but a little gruesome
jtshea5 January 1999
I enjoyed this movie. The characters were portrayed interestingly and the story moved along nicely. There were not many surprises, and some of the more gruesome scenes were stretched out longer than necessary. The main attraction was the quirkiness of the characters.
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What to make of it...
punishmentpark15 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this one a good while ago, and it stuck with me as an enjoyable piece of work. Finally, I've been able to track a copy down and last night I sat down and watched it. To not beat around the bush: it was disappointing on the whole, but still worth another watch because of the strange combination of many elements, such as film noir, black humour, drama, romance, an offbeat sounding soundtrack with a lot of Italian ditties and such, and even a portion of gore.

The story sometimes just muddles along like the lost main character himself does, with a finale that does not really deliver a proper payoff. It has to do with the credibility of Johnny forgetting who Skovik is; if you can go along with that, there'll be no problem, but it felt like big step too far for me. Then, there's the dark and romantic drama going on between Johnny and Alice, which didn't work well for me either. Jerry, Johnny's 'former' brother in law, could have been a fun part in itself, but just like a lot of things in this film, it didn't really sit right either. It's hard to put a finger on it, but there you have it.

There's plenty of potential, but with so many different elements going on, I think it takes a really good director to make it all come together just right. This, to me, is more like a 'nice try, no cigar' deal.

5 out of 10, which may even be generous.
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Happy food for happy people!
lastliberal7 January 2008
Sometimes when you are rooting around the bargain bin, you can find an overlooked gem. A look at the cast here tells you that it has to be worth something, and with a tile like Skidmarks, there has to be something interesting.

Sure, it is not the best work of these fine performers, but it is certainly worth your time.

Peter Gallagher (Short Cuts, American beauty) plays a police photographer, who moonlights catching people with hookers so his partners can blackmail them. Sort of like Danny DeVito in L.A. Confidential. He hooks up with Frances McDormand (Fargo, North County), an alcoholic who is trying to dry out.

When his partners start dying all around him, you have to believe McDormand is involved as her father is on TV stating that he has never cheated. We know differently, and so does Gallagher. But, that's a red herring, and the killer comes from a place you never suspect.

Jack Black (The School of Rock) provides comic relief as the ex-brother-in-law, and John Lithgow (Terms of Endearment, The World According to Garp) provides the exciting finish. Charlie Spradling provides the eye candy.
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A MUST WATCH......!!!!!
stevepi11 August 2001
i think that this movie is one of the most underrated movies around..i have watched it at least 8 times and it gets better everytime I see it. Francis mcDermott is as good as she has ever been. Let the viewer decide......!!!!!1 luv it.
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A poor Coen Brothers clone
Captain-134 December 1999
This film wants to be a black comedy, but doesn't quite pull it off. It's like the director every now and then said "Oh yeah, it's a black comedy. Do something funny now". It just isn't consistent. Watch "Fargo" instead. I think Frances McDormand was trying to reprise her wonderful role in that film and picked this loser. And John Lithgow is capable of so much better. Not bad but very ordinary.
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Too slow and low key to generate skidmarks
Wizard-88 July 2016
"Johnny Skidmarks" does not seem to know exactly what it wants to be - it crosses a number of genres, from black comedy to thriller. As it turns out, none of the genres it dabbles in are particularly well accomplished. It's not funny, not thrilling, or insightful. The main problem with the movie, as my summary line points out, is that it's too soft and low key. This particularly goes for lead actor Peter Gallagher - he is so lacking in emotion (ANY emotion) for most of the movie that it's hard to get a handle on his character. But the movie's story is also weak. It's extremely slow moving and filled with unnecessary fat. There's also fault with the twist about two-thirds into the movie, which is not only predictable to a good degree, it depends on the characters being extremely stupid. The only interesting thing to be found in the movie is seeing a pre-fame Jack Black, though his scenes only add up to a few minutes of the total running time.
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A Decent Effort
CQKRIS28 May 2001
Warning: Spoilers
John Lithgow's best performance in many years as a homicidal cop, on the brink of madness. Lithgow is both funny and at times scary in a role that, after seeing Cliffhanger, seems that he was destined to excel. Although having a slow start, the film gains momentum and gears towards the rollercoaster finish in which Lithgow's character delights. Although, never a classic, it is a pretty decent effort.
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shiver me timbers
Goodfela-22 December 1998
forget about all the bad things you may or may not have heard about this one ,trust no one - but me. this is one fine film, enough said.
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The movie skids into some pretty sizable plot holes ..............
merklekranz23 December 2009
"Johnny Skidmarks" is uneven to the extreme. This sometimes black comedy, sometimes thriller, sometimes noir, sometimes violent movie, teeters on the edge of being either entertainment or nonsense. The plot is initially interesting. A police freelance photographer sidelines taking blackmail photographs of unsuspecting clients with a planted hooker. While completely disassociating himself from the victims, Peter Gallagher plays the role of the photographer very low key. Even more low key is his on again off again romance with Francis McDormand. Her role seems like it belongs in a different movie, and adds nothing to the already well stretched plot. In the end the wheels finally come off regarding John Lithgrow's good to bad transformation, and the concluding torture scene turns into one gigantic plot hole. - MERK
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Not a bad movie,Skids but avoids the crash.
stormruston8 November 2004
This movie was better then I expected.

What little gore there was was top notch and effective to the scene,and the production values were fine.

I loved Jack black in it...he was the only Comedy in this "dark comic mystery"

John Lithgow was over the top,and fun as a psycho cop,and Gallagher was very good as the brooding photographer.

The script was a little weak and not fleshed out that well,still all in all a good movie.

The basic story is a freelance photographer gets in over his head with blackmail...then add some twists.
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you car here
lee_eisenberg24 February 2008
When I first heard of "Johnny Skidmarks", it sounded a little bit like "Crash" (David Cronenberg's movie, not the movie that won Best Picture a few years ago), only cruder. It turned out to be different. But still, while it's far from a terrible flick, this is not one that I would recommend. It's not because a certain scene made me squirm a little bit - I think that you know to which scene I refer - but I don't get the sense that the movie added anything new. My overall point is that there have been lots of good movies dealing with cars: "Christine" and both versions of "The Italian Job", for example. Therefore, I don't consider this one particularly worth seeing. Peter Gallagher, Frances McDormand, John Lithgow and Jack Black have done better.
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Slow, tedious, and a little over the top
gary-cole24 June 2004
This movie started out slow, then slowed to a snail's pace, and then took off in a ridiculous , and contrived sprint to the finish. Please don't misunderstand, I'm all for "suspension of disbelief". I understand it's role in viewing a film, however, Johnny Skidmarks demands far too much suspension of disbelief ; as well as,

suspension of logic in general. I kept waking up my wife to show her how bad this film had become. I have the utmost respect for the actors, many of whom, I've enjoyed in other films but they dropped the ball on this one. Lastly,

Skidmark's relationship with Frances McDormand was about as stale and

unbelievable as any I've ever witnessed. There is a reason this film went from Sundance to HBO.
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Positively ignorant.
Elswet27 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is an extremely uneven execution of a dark comedy. At least, it aspires to be a dark comedy, but honestly I am still waiting for the comedic parts. While it does have some good elements, they are completely lost in the horrid acting, tepid direction, and lame comedic attempts. The comedy is added as an almost after-thought to the failed attempt to create an even passable action movie.

There are not words for how detestable this attempt really is. It plods on, out of step with itself, just wearing you down with bad timing, incredibly amateurish performances and dull witted humor.

I bought this at a video store closing for 50 cents, so I'm not out much, considering I made 45 good purchases otherwise, but I still found myself wanting my 50 cents back.

Really. Shave your dog, rearrange your garage, or pluck those pesky nose hairs with a tweezer rather than watching this really disgusting production.

If I HAVE to rate this, it's a 1.3/10 from...

the Fiend :.
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mcp-26 December 1998
I was scopping out the new releases at the local Blockbuster, and I came upon the movie, Jonny Skidmarks. I read the summary on the back of the movie box, and I thought it would be good. I got home popped it into my VCR, and started watching, the beginning and end were really good, but the middle of the movie....well, it got a little out of wack, and slipped away and never came back. I say thought-provking because it makes you think, this really happens to a lot of people, not like other movies...letting the plot get too out of hand. But this movie did get out of hand, having your arms, legs, and head chopped off and laid where they are supposed to be on your body, but not actually attached, and in the shape of JESUS CHRIST on the cross. I don't think so. This movie was alright , for just one viewing, and will never be played in my home again, Frances Mcdormand needs to look at her Oscar and think to herself, 'I need to get better roles.' Over and out.
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