Chattahoochee (1989) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Chattahoochee is a grimly realistic tale of prison reform.

Gary Oldman plays a Korean War Hero who develops some mental problems after he gets home to Florida. One day he just steps outside and starts discharging his handgun and yelling for his neighbors to call the police. He hoped that the police would shoot him so his wife could collect on an insurance policy. His plan fails. The stand-off with the police eventually results in him being wounded, but not killed, by his own bullet in a confused suicide attempt. These actions eventually land him in a brutal state institution for the criminally insane, where he eventually becomes a crusader for prisoner's rights, better conditions, and various necessary reforms.

The film came and went without attracting much attention. The subject matter has been thoroughly covered by other films, and Chattahoochee really had nothing new to add except perhaps that it was based on a true story, which is kind of a "who cares" for most people. There's just nothing very new or very intriguing. And how big a market is there for a portrait of life in a squalid, abusive, mental institution for men?


  • Gary Oldman - full frontal and rear nudity in clear light
  • Dennis Hopper - rear nudity in steam.
  • Various prisoners appeared naked in the prison check-in scene, including some frontals.
  • There is a brief flash of a close-up of breasts. The owner is not identifiable. It is Frances McDormand's character, but not Frances's breasts.

There's nothing really wrong with the movie.

It's well acted by the leads, including such respected names as Gary Oldman and Frances McDormand. There is one credibility problem in the casting. How can you relate to a movie which requires the audience to be convinced that Dennis Hopper is NOT insane? Hopper is muttering and fidgeting and rolling his eyes as shiftily as ever, but the script requires us to think that he is being held in a mental institution unfairly.  Ned Beatty is also on hand, playing the requisite evil warden of the institution, which was convenient for him because he always enjoys canoeing in that part of the world, as well as working with toothless rednecks both on and off the set. Ah, the memories!

It's fairly well edited and paced as well.  Chattahoochee was director Mick Jackson's first theatrical effort after more than a decade of TV work, and the film was directed well enough to attract the attention of some significant people in Hollywood. Jackson picked up some major projects in the next two years, L.A. Story and The Bodyguard, which were written by some major players - Steve Martin and Lawrence Kasdan, respectively. Jackson's collaboration with Martin was a winner, but unfortunately he could never again come close to the peak he achieved in L.A. Story, and most of his projects in the past decade have been either for TV or of TV quality.

Or worse, in the case of Volcano.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic

  • no major features

  1. (6.80) - L.A. Story (1991)
  2. (5.63) - First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest, The (2002)
  3. (5.57) - Chattahoochee (1989)
  4. (5.55) - Clean Slate (1994)
  5. (5.21) - Bodyguard, The (1992)
  6. (5.21) - Volcano (1997)

The Critics Vote

  • Roger Ebert 2.5/4

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office: $259,000


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C-. Competent film, but not very involving - more like a documentary.

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