A little horror and a lot supernatural thriller, the 1987 Alan Parker neo-noir styled film “Angel Heart” is a psychological adventure that mirrors the Kubrick classic “The Shining” with its bizarre visuals and offbeat characters – but what would you expect from an English born filmmaker whose directorial resume includes Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall.’
Based on the William Hjortsberg’s 1978 novel ‘Falling Angel’, “Angel Heart” stars Mickey Rourke as Private Investigator Harry Angel, a typical Brooklyn based gumshoe who looks just as sleazy as the lowlifes he’s tasked with tracking, perfectly evidence in one scene where Harry lights a match for his cigarette off the shoe worn by a corpse. Whenever Harry displays irksome behavior, he replies with the only logical explanation he has. “I’m from Brooklyn.”
Its 1955 and the backdrop of New York City is perfect as such. Particular attention is paid to Harry’s feet tramping through the slushy streets and its a perfect compliment to the atmosphere. 1950’s New York is the choice time period for stories, and its well known as the genesis of the detective comics. The movie itself plays out in the same style as a graphic novel from the era.
Rourke was a Hollywood stud in the 1980s, and like his appearance in “The Pope of Greenwich Village” is nearly unrecognizable compared to today’s version. Rourke has a Bruce Willis style and plays the role of Harry Angel with a devotion that could pit it as one of his unquestionable best roles.
Whats I love about “Angel Heart” is that its protagonist is in every single scene and frame of the movie. As we follow Harry Angel’s investigation, we feel as though we are right along for the ride, experiencing what he experiences – including strange hallucinogenic visions and haunting percussion that sounds like a heartbeat dispersed throughout, courtesy of a phenomenal score produced by South African composer Trevor Jones.
Harry’s assignment comes courtesy of an ominous client named Louis Cyphre, played perfectly by the great Robert De Niro. Cyphre has employed Harry Angel to track Johnny Favorite, a man who skipped town without repaying a debt. With his dark goatee, razor filed fingernails, and sinister cane, its apparent Louis Cyphre is more than just a regular customer, and the ultimate charade is on.
“Angel Heart” has a great dialogue, specifically the handful of interactions between Rourke and De Niro which, though simple conversation, you cant look away. Rourke is wonderful as a hired investigator, tracking Johnny Favorite and stumbling across a series of brutal murders in the process. De Niro is awesome in just a handful of scenes as the ominous Louis Cyphre, overseeing the pursuit of a man who has wronged him.
Certain scenes are truly divine horror gems, though the majority of the film is a mystery enhanced thriller as Harry travels to the bowels of New Orleans and uncovers a ritualistic hoodoo voodoo cult.
Supporting cast members include Lisa Bonet who stumbled upon her own notorious controversy while filming a brutal sex scene – a stark contrast to her beloved role at the time as Denise Huxtable on ‘The Cosby Show.’
“Angel Heart”has a great ‘Twilight Zone’ style premise and twist ending. Its odd in a good way, and an interesting movie to watch.
by – Matt Christopher