Heaven's Prisoners (1996) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This is an overlong N'Awlins noir starring Alec Baldwin.

Actually, that's not completely accurate. It did start out as some kind of Southern Gothic Noir, but it ended up being a revenge film, ala Death Wish. Alec Baldwin spent the last 67 minutes of this film tracking down and killing the three guys who killed his wife. The problem is that it took 63 minutes to get his wife killed in the first place. The two halves of the movie are related to one another, but not very directly. The first half is a complicated story about a reformed alcoholic (Baldwin), a retired policeman who was running a small fishing resort in the bayou when he and his wife saw a small plane crash near their boat. They dragged a little girl from the plane. The DEA showed up. Hit men showed up. More hit men showed up. Baldwin got beat up a few times. He beat up a few guys up in revenge. The baddies showed up to get counter-revenge, snuck into his house, and riddled his bed with automatic weapon fire. Baldwin was not in bed, and the baddies killed his wife instead of him. Then Alec really got steamed, as you might imagine. He started hitting the bottle again. Old girlfriends showed up. He informally adopted the little girl from the airplane. Then he plotted a systematic revenge. At first the trail led to a conclusion that whole anti-Baldwin plot was masterminded by Baldwin's childhood friend turned bad guy (Eric Roberts). Or maybe Eric was just a puppet for some Northeastern Mafia guys who thought their partnership with Mr. Roberts was becoming too public. Or maybe Eric's wife (Teri Hatcher) was more than she seemed to be. Then there was a stripper with a heart of gold, a voodoo priest, and I don't know what else.

The plot rambles, to say the least.

Frankly, I was lost for a while in the first half of the film. Baldwin's problems all started because the DEA agent came out to talk to him, but I can't for the life of me figure out why the DEA made that visit in the first place. The agent told Baldwin to stay out of DEA business, but there was no reason to think Baldwin wanted to get mixed up in any shady business of any kind, on either side. He was just living a pastoral existence with his pet ducks and his fishing boats, and he and his wife were deliriously happy minding their own business.


Teri Hatcher is naked in a scene in which she is standing on a balcony behind a railing.

Connie Whittemore is topless in the part of a stripper.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic

  • no special features

As the story progressed, I couldn't figure out who was working for whom, or how people knew to be where they were when they got there. There was a surprise ending about 70 minutes later which explained most of the cases where I (and Baldwin's character) had been confused, but by that point I had forgotten about the mystery and was watching what was essentially another movie - the Charles Bronson portion of the entertainment in which Baldwin hunted down the three killers while trying to find out who ordered them to make the hit.

This movie is a cliché in the celebrity nudity racket. Every time I tell people what I do (which is not often, to be honest), they ask me, "why did Teri Hatcher do that balcony scene?" First question. Never fails. I have gotten tired of talking about it over the years, but it is a good question. Hatcher was considered one of the sexiest women on the planet in the mid 90s. She looks fantastic with her clothes on - slim-hipped and darkly exotic, ideal for leather or sultry mystery, but easily convertible to the girl next door as well. What guys always say to me is, "I thought she was so hot until I saw her topless, then my desire deflated completely". For some women, nude scenes can be a great career move, providing a much-needed image transformation or a giant leap in their recognition factor. For Hatcher, to the contrary, the nude scene was the wrong decision, the destruction of a magnificent illusion. I don't know why she agreed to do such a straightforward scene in bright daylight, but it was not the right career move, because it showed off her body too clearly. Her breasts aren't ugly, by any means, but she looks totally, completely ordinary between her waist and neck, no better than most of our wives. Before she did the balcony scene she was a goddess. Goddesses cannot afford to be ordinary.

Sidebar: "Cheers" argument fodder. Add this to the "sweatiest movie" debate, along with the greats like Cool Hand Luke. Alec Baldwin is drenched in sweat or rain or both from start to finish.

The Critics Vote

  • General panel consensus: two stars. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 2/4.

The People Vote ...

  • It lost a lot of money. It grossed only five million dollars in the USA, despite a $25 million production budget.


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-. Marginally adequate genre fare. I liked some things about it, especially the imagery, but it was too damned long and rambling, and I'm not surprised that it lost money.

Return to the Movie House home page