Rourke and De Niro are young and restless.
Reviewed By: Avraham Azrieli
Avraham Azrieli writes books and screenplays. His website is: www.AzrieliBooks.com
In this well designed period film (1955, with multiple flashbacks), Rourke delivers a captivating performance as Harry Angel, private eye. His case starts with the familiar routine of all such tales when a mystery man, Louis Cyphre (played by the indomitable Robert De Niro), hires him to find an old-time musician/WWII veteran who is missing under strange circumstances. Angel’s search, though, takes him from the ordinary to the highly unordinary, from Harlem to New Orleans, from New York music to southern black magic and sweaty white privilege.
Along the way, Angel experiences recurring bloody memories and actual-yet-inexplicable gruesome occurrences that transform him and the movie—on the go!—from private eye to film noir to serial killer mystery to horror and, finally, to supernatural.
In a glowing testament to Alan Parker’s abilities as writer and director, the gradual transformation of Rourke/Angel and his story through all these starkly different genres is achieved without a single jarring moment. It is an almost perfect arch, taken with the subtle transmuting of the visual sights, the surrounding settings, the changing weather, the actors’ outfits and body changes, and most cleverly, the noises that we hear as Angel descends on his painful journey towards the ghastly conclusion of his fateful investigation. It is interesting to note that Parker’s next film was Mississippi Burning, another excellent cinematic expediting to the southern United States of the good old days.
Particularly enchanting is the performance of then 19-years-old Lisa Bonet, who plays 17-years-old Epiphany Proudfoot, a young mother who is the daughter of the missing man. Especially memorable is Bonet’s acting in an explicit sex scene with the almost twice older Rourke, who makes love to a topless Bonet in a rapidly rising ferocity, with flashback images of blood and brutality mixed in with the lovemaking to the point where past and present become indistinguishable.
In summary, Angel Heart is an unsettling film done incredibly well, with excellent acting by Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro, Lisa Bonet and a wonderful supporting cast. The moral and existential questions it raises, while not necessarily answered by the story, are valid and intriguing long after the credits have run their course.