Chattahoochee (1989) - Rotten Tomatoes

Chattahoochee (1989)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Aiming to procure insurance money for his family, Emmet Foley, a Korean War vet, attempts to commit suicide in the '50s and is soon locked up in a Florida state mental hospital after being wrongly declared insane. It is here that he finds unbelievably cruel treatment by the staff of the defenseless patients and he spends years attempting to call public attention to what is going on inside the institution. Gary Oldman stars in this truth-based drama about Chris Calhoun, supported by actors Dennis Hopper, Ned Beatty, Pamela Reed and Frances McDormand among others.
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Gary Oldman
as Emmett Foley
Dennis Hopper
as Walker
Pamela Reed
as Earlene
Ned Beatty
as Dr. Harwood
Lee Wilkof
as Vernon
Matt Craven
as Lonny
Gary Howard Klar
as Clarence
Tim Scott
as Harley
Richard Portnow
as Dr. Debner
William Newman
as Jonathan
Whitey Hughes
as Mr. Johnson
Traber Burns
as Miami Cop
Ralph Pace
as Leonard
Laurens Moore
as Pa Foley
Mary Tyler Moore
as Ma Foley
Peggy Beasley
as Mae's Mother
David Fitzsimmons
as Ambulance Driver
Gary Bullock
as Sadistic Attendant
David Dwyer
as Goading Attendant
John Brasington
as Dr. Towney
Jim E. Quick
as Dr. Everly
Michael Easler
as Attendant
C.K. Bibby
as Baker
Bob Hannah
as Earl
George Nannerello
as Patient Without Shoes
Ed Grady
as Stream of Conciousness Man
Kevin Barber
as Upside-down Inmate
James "Fred" Culclasure
as Hymn-singing Inmate
Dorothy L. Grissom Hardin
as Women on Street
Shane Baily
as Ozell
Kevin Campbell
as Inmate in Cesspool
E. Pat Hall
as Inmate in Movie Theater
Jerry Campbell
as Inmate in Tunnel
Roger Jackson
as Inmate
Suzi Bass
as Harwood's Secretary
Jill Rankin
as Governor's Secretary
Joe Loy
as Quincy Cop
Randy Randolph
as Miami Guard
Kathryn Cobb
as Miami Nurse
Jim Gloster
as Miami Attendant
Kristi Frankenheimer
as Weather Girl
Wallace Merck
as Patrolman
Don Wayne Bass
as First Guard
Mykel Mariette
as Male Nurse
Raul Apartella
as First Man at Investigation
B.J. Koonce
as Woman at Investigation
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Critic Reviews for Chattahoochee

All Critics (6) | Top Critics (3)

This fact based story from the mid 50s American penal system is a sobering and dramatic reminder of how many states treated mentally ill patients, criminal or otherwise

Full Review… | January 9, 2009
Urban Cinefile

Off the beaten track, but too bleak to merit the detour.

July 8, 2004
F5 (Wichita, KS)

Audience Reviews for Chattahoochee


Seemingly lost in the haze of an outstanding career, "Chattahoochee" is a largely forgotten film in the resume of Gary Oldman. Though it had the right ingredients for success, it doesn't take long to figure out why the film isn't often mentioned when Oldman is being discussed. To be as blunt as can be, "Chattahoochee" is chock full of ideas, but none contain depth. One day, Emmett Foley (Oldman) just snaps. The devoted husband and father randomly starts shooting up the neighborhood with hopes that his eventually suicide will instead appear as a murder and his wife (Frances McDormand) will reap the benefits of the insurance. Instead, his suicide fails and he is sent to the Florida State Hospital in "Chattahoochee," a mental ward in which the patients are mistreated by the doctors and staff. There he forms bonds with his fellow inmates, especially Walker Benson (Dennis Hopper). If "Chattahoochee" seems to resemble "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," it's only in its most basic elements: insane asylum, patients, doctors, mistreatment, guy who doesn't belong. The similarities end there, as do any hopes of "Chattahoochee" being anywhere near "Cuckoo's Nest" level. The problems are endless for this misstep of a film, so much so that not even a trio of talent actors can save it. The most fatal flaw of "Chattahoochee" is its failure to create wholesome characters. Not one of the subjects is more than a simple sketch. Any kind of development is nonexistent. No one, including the filmmakers, seems to know who the characters are now never mind who they were that led them to the point they're at. There is an overall feeling that the film features segments of a life more so than a story of a complete product. Obviously, it's hard to form any connection whatsoever with the characters and sympathy even becomes a stretch. For a film that focuses mostly on the mistreatment of the patients, lacking a sense of caring is a crippling blow. What may be most unfortunate is how the script restricts Oldman. Predictably enough, Oldman showcases all the raw, powerful emotion one would expect would come when such a talented actor is in such a challenging role. However, as the character has no real direction, Oldman's moments only happen in spurts. With no real background and a shotty view of the present, Oldman's Emmett gets lost in a riffraff of themes. What should have been an engaging and stirring character instead becomes a jumble of missed opportunities and poor execution. Emmett is simply a creation of the lone, mis-understood yet well-intended stallion that rides in, saves the day, and apparently is capable of working all of his problems out just by becoming a "hero" in the eyes of his minions. The ineptness in the development of characters doesn't just hinder Oldman's Emmett. Both McDormand's Mae and Hopper's Walker are nothing more than talking shadows. They are sometimes there, but left to remain mysterious. Both characters are woven into a melting pot of themes that never come together. Emmett's past and his marriage to Mae are touched upon, but only briefly. Their sexual problems are only mentioned in passing and the two characters, even in their most vulnerable, never quite seem to connect, which seems ludicrous given the talent in between Oldman and McDormand. Hopper's Walker is nothing more than an ear to talk to and a mouth to listen to. There is no lead-in to the friendship and no build-up either. Finally, religion can't help but poke its head into the frame every so often, but its presence is never substantial enough to be anything more than a confusing derailment to the film's already unclear purpose. From a technical standpoint, "Chattahoochee" is done no favors. The characters are vague by nature, but matters are made worse by random, misplaced narration which awkwardly tries to dive inside the mind of the characters. The transition from scene-to-scene and the editing in total is clumsy and graceless. An intense, emotional situation may quickly cut away to something less so quite abruptly and resulting in an almost entirely unappealing experience. There's not a lot of redeeming value in this misfire of a film that plays more like a TV special. If anything, extra points should be awarded to the cast who certainly tried their best to save an otherwise slow, choppy puzzle film, but even then, "Chattahoochee" just isn't so much as mediocre.

Nick Coviello
Nick Coviello

Great performances by Oldman, Hopper, Reed and McDormand add to the intriguing true story of one patient's battle to reform a mental institution. Nice direction and realistic throughout.

Anthony Valletta
Anthony Valletta

Super Reviewer

Hard as hell to sit through, but SO worth it if you do. Gary Oldman plays a Korean War veteran who cracks up and is sent to an asylum/prison camp that makes the farm in Cool Hand Luke look like Disneyland. Supposedly based on a true story about a place in Louisiana. Oldman is fantastic. He's so talented. It's a shame he wastes so much effort playing freaks -- True Romance, anyone?

Cindy I
Cindy I

Super Reviewer

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