Angel Heart (1987)

Director: Alan Parker.
Starring. Mickey Rourke, Lisa Bonet, Robert De Niro. USA. 1h 53m.

In the dark final scenes of Angel Heart, after you’ve picked your jaw up and shaken the last hour and 1 hour 53 minutes out of your system the sweat dries, the blood and dust settles and it’s all quite simple to understand but it certainly didn’t’ feel that way only moments before and you begin to feel silly for not seeing all the warning signs as the detective story turns into a dark occult nightmare.

Starring Mickey Rourke as Mr Harry Angel, a scruffy private eye who works out of a scumbag office, he gets the call to meet at a church in Harlem to meet with Louis Cypher (De Niro) who requests that Mr Angel tracks down Johnny Favourite  but the trail  instantly becomes littered with corpses and Angel is scrambling to stay alive and get off the case but before he knows it, he’s in too deep.

At first it starts out like any other 1950’s styled private eye film the only thing missing is the overture downtempo voice over,  but after a few leads it becomes something quite sinister, Angel tracks Johnny from returning as a war hero to a veterans hospital, and then hits a dead end. After a few scary encounters and some pushing from Mr Cypher he eventually picked up the trail and heads down south to Louisiana and the film gets hotter and darker;  the odd moments become more frequent and these slyly placed red herrings add some dark humour and twinned with good acting and direction the descent into the supernatural travels from something noticed in the corner of the eye into the knocking on the door.

Parker is a bit of a genre tourist, but once he picks up on an idea he immerses himself into it right up to the elbows. It’s hard to imagine that this is the man who delivered Fame (1980), albeit it total hit within its confines of a musical, it’s nothing compared to this brooding thriller, although the work he did with Pink Floyd on The Wall (1979), suddenly his shadowy potential opens up. There are a few questionable scenes, namely one with Epiphany Proudfoot (Bonet), a connection to Johnny that Angel falls for.. HARD, they make out in a hotel room that starts dripping with water, then pouring and eventually the voodoo priestess ala and Angel are make woo woo in a room raining blood. Something for the censors to think long and hard about and resulted in amazing slow-mo scene that cemented the movie in the mind and adds some flavour to the mix of what’s to come. It also completely changed everyone’s perceptions of Bonet, the expectations of the doe eyes teenager from the Cosby Show is overshadowed by the role of abandoned sexuality  and made her movie debut all that more controversial.

Rourke plays the rough and ready PI in his own strides, the unshaven and don’t give a fuck attitude hasn’t quite been mastered in such a nervous way before and his centre stage performance is definitely one of his best, as is the shorter bursts of Robert De Niro, who transformed himself into Martin Scorsese down to the perfect suit, manicured nails and slicked back hair, you don’t see much of him but his presence is felt a long time after the camera has been swept away somewhere else. Parker picked a handful of really memorable faces and unusual actors, like Charlotte Rampling who plays a fortune teller who is spooked by Angels presence, despite dabbling in the dark arts this simple cop from the north causes her some distress, and his presence seems to be a death sentence to many others.

The symbolism and religious iconography is shockingly beautiful and Parkers efforts have again paid off with the presence that masks the atmosphere in this intricate story, it’s hard to compare with anything else as it’s so unique, and I wish more movies at least looked like this one, I wish a lot more had just as much intrigue.

The strange revelations make sense and unravel the story with some colourful flashbacks are the more ghastly scenes and in my case it’s just an excuse to watch it all over again and it’s firmly one of my all-time favourites of all time.

Rating 10/10

Related – Sugar Hill (1974),
Lists – 5 Perfect Devils, A-Z of Occult Movies, Opening the Gates of Hell, My top 30 films
Article – Our obsession with Lucifer
Spotlight – Robert De Niro, Mickey Rourke
FS – Louis Cypher in the church.

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