Angel Heart (1987) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna
thumbs way up.
Scoop's notes in white:
Mickey Rourke has taken some grief in the past for his performances in roles that just seemed wrong for him, but I think he's terrific when he gets the right part, and he sure got it here. In 1955, Harry Angel, a lower-class stumblebum detective from Brooklyn, who is no NASA candidate, is hired by a stranger to find a singer missing since the war. The singer is believed to have breached a contract with the mysterious stranger.
Along the way to this ostensibly simple assignment, Rourke finds a trail of grisly murders, confusing clues, beatings, black magic, and plenty of atmosphere in New Orleans, Harlem, and Coney Island. As time goes on, both he and we discover that he is searching for something else besides a singer - something sinister and somehow related to the detective himself.
combination horror movie and detective film noir, and
it's terrific, although the plot is incredibly
complicated and confusing. What was the significance of
the nuns? Why do those black guys keep chasing him in
Harlem? As the genre requires, Angel gets beat up about
every ten minutes, and neither he nor we are exactly sure
why in some cases.
What we do know is that Mr. Johnny Favorite, the missing singer, was one serious sleazebag who engaged in some blasphemously evil practices.
At one time I tried to figure out some of these unexplained details, so I read the prize-winning book upon which the film is based, then lent it to a friend to read. Between the two of us, we had no more clue after reading and discussing the book than before we started it. I think you have to just accept that it is some dark evil stuff, and forget about trying to tie it down too tight. I can't say much more because the mystery is much more fun if you try to solve it along with Harry Angel.
|Director Alan Parker really did an exceptional job on the atmospheric touches that keep the mystery mysterious and the horror horrible. The rusty mechanisms in Angel's recurring half-memories, the decaying hospital, the seedy offices and apartments, the shanties of Algiers, Louisiana, the various haunts and artifacts of black magic, the heart-beat background score - all combine to give us a creepy, spooky, feeling of incomprehension, matching what is going through the head of the simple detective.|
There is a crazy scene on Coney Island between Rourke and a carnival geek who has an entire box of nose shields. This one of the oddest and most memorable conversations ever recorded on film.
In addition to the atmospheric direction, there is some interesting casting to support Rourke.
|I love this movie, so I don't want to get all anal-retentive on its ass, but you'll notice that the street scene below has some sloppy and obvious anachronisms. In the two circles you will see (a) a vehicle that did not exist in the mid 50s, and (b) traffic signals that did not exist then.|
|If I gave star ratings, this would be a near-miss for four stars, finishing at 3.5 (the same rating Roger Ebert gave it). I like the movie enough to give it four and recommend it heartily, but I have to remind myself that it is a genre film without universal appeal, and it has some flaws related to confusion, detail-orientation, and continuity. But I love it nonetheless.|
|Tuna's thoughts in yellow:
Angel Heart (1987) is a better than
average horror/mystery/thriller. Mickey Rourke is believable as an
unwashed and mostly unemployed private eye in New York, who suddenly is
contacted by a rich but very strange client (Robert De Niro), and asked
to find a missing person. De Niro claims his only interest is to find
out if the man is alive or dead. The missing man was a well known
crooner before WW II, but was horribly disfigured during the war, and
hospitalized with amnesia. The client had regular reports from a
hospital that he was there, condition unchanged, but the last report
didn't arrive. Rourke checks with the hospital, and finds that the
missing man has actually been gone for twelve years, but a doctor was
paid a large sum of money to make people think he was still at the
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