Angel Heart (1987)

If one were to graph Mickey Rourke's career, one would find the peak way back in the mid-Eighties, back when Rourke was an A-list actor who actually starred in films rather than randomly popped up, as he does these days, as a weathered cameo player swallowing his bit parts whole. Somewhere on the summit of that peak sits Angel Heart.

Angel Heart (1987)

D: Alan Parker; with Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro, Lisa Bonet, Charlotte Rampling, Brownie McGhee, Stocker Fontelieu. If one were to graph Mickey Rourke's career, one would find the peak way back in the mid-Eighties, back when Rourke was an A-list actor who actually starred in films rather than randomly popped up, as he does these days, as a weathered cameo player swallowing his bit parts whole. Somewhere on the summit of that peak sits Angel Heart, a thriller set in the mid-Fifties. Rourke plays Brooklyn private eye Harry Angel, who is approached with a job offer by a shady, wealthy businessman named Louis Cyphre (De Niro, in a fleeting but effective performance). Cyphre wants to track down an ex-lounge singer named Johnny Favourite -- for undisclosed reasons -- and will pay whatever it takes to do so. Like any good cinematic private eye, Angel immediately becomes obsessed with the case. He follows Favourite's trail south to the sweaty voodoo culture of New Orleans. There, Angel encounters a series of grotesquely murdered bodies and a woman named Epiphany Proudfoot played by Lisa Bonet, of The Cosby Show fame. No doubt desperate to avoid being typecast as the moral, upper middle class daddy's girl for the rest of her career, Bonet rebels mightily here. Her performance as a beautiful voodoo priestess culminates in an interracial sex scene -- one of the first in mainstream cinema -- with Angel as blood showers down on them from the ceiling. She does a fine job acting in the film as well -- a shame that ensuing controversy had to ruin her career. Meanwhile, director Alan Parker -- whose own career is ever-peaking and can count The Commitments and Mississippi Burning on his résumé -- opts for a hallucinatory pace, counterbalanced by cinematographer Michael Seresin's visually striking, noirish lens work. While there is a bit of weakness in certain parts of the story, this film is most important due to its powerful, shocking denouement, a stylistic precursor to The Sixth Sense and Se7en.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Angel Heart, Alan Parker, Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro, Lisa Bonet, Charlotte Rampling, Brownie McGhee, Stocker Fontelieu

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