Bulletproof Heart

1994, R, 95 min. Directed by Mark Malone. Starring Anthony Lapaglia, Mimi Rogers, Matt Craven, Peter Boyle, Monika Schnarre, Joseph Maher.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Aug. 4, 1995

Director Mark Malone makes an impressive debut with this modern film noir about a hit man who falls in love with his victim. This cold-blooded drama stares unflinchingly into the face of death. But what hit man Mick (LaPaglia) finds there, for the first time in his career, is compassion and humanity rather than the usual nihilistic ennui. The movie's opening sequence shows Mick at work: He's the best at what he does, and he does it with an artful efficiency and chilling detachment. When next we see Mick, he's at home in bed with a prostitute (sent to him as a “tip” from a client), and it's apparent that he would just as soon kill her as screw her. Neither action would stir Mick's arousal. Two other characters figure into his posh and orderly existence: his associate George (Boyle) and his sidekick-wannabe Archie (Craven). George comes to Mick with an urgent and curious job that must be completed that evening; Archie comes in contrition for his bungled performance on the last job Mick allowed him to join in on. The target of the evening's hit is a beautiful and mysterious woman named Fiona (Rogers), a woman who welcomes her assassin and longs for his touch. Her enigmatic behavior and her erotically charged allure transfixes Mick and, ironically, provides him with something to live for. The performances in Bulletproof Heart are, every one of them, exceptional. LaPaglia proves himself a fascinating leading man as he ranges back and forth between the character's icy reserve and volatile physicality. Rogers is pure femme fatale, a noir dame packaged with a lady's grace; based on her performances in Rapture and Bulletproof Heart alone, it's clear that Rogers deserves to become a major star. Boyle turns in one of his masterfully colorful performances, and Craven as the dimwitted Archie is all jangly energy and nervous tension. The film's dialogue occasionally becomes a bit too literary and self-conscious, though the characters manage to deliver them with comfortable ease. The movie is, moreover, divided into sections that are individually introduced with written lines of dialogue or commentary. And though Bulletproof Heart maintains a remarkable visual and moral tone throughout, bits and pieces of the narrative sometimes stick out as implausible. Nevertheless, low-budget indies this sustained and cohesive are a rare find and modern films noirs this authentic are even rarer still.

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Bulletproof Heart, Mark Malone, Anthony Lapaglia, Mimi Rogers, Matt Craven, Peter Boyle, Monika Schnarre, Joseph Maher

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