Angel Heart

Dir: Alan Parker, 1987. Starring: Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro & Lisa Bonet. Mystery/Thriller.
Angel Heart

A New York private eye (Rourke) is hired by a mysterious man (De Niro) to locate a missing crooner named “Johnny Favourite.” But as every new piece of the puzzle falls into place and voodoo works its magic -- things get more dangerous and unnerving.

Alan Parker (Pink Floyd’s The Wall) directs a film on a tight-wire, fusing Raymond Chandler with the world of the Faustian supernatural. With simple, but confident strokes, he brings such gravity to a tale that becomes otherworldly. Taking many liberties from the source material novel Falling Angels by William Hjortberg, Parker’s screen adaptation expands the scope of the reality, while doing justice to the way people really speak in the Big Apple and the Big Easy.

Michael Seresin’s cinematography is well composed in every shot and the hard-edged lighting is true to the look of post-World War II detective Noir cinema. The look of the film itself seems a bit dingy—perfect for a story like this one.

The time period production design gives an authentic 1940s look to Harlem and New Orleans. The slushy streets of snow or mud give the locations a sense of truly being lived in. In the case of the second, the deep, dirty south is grungy and sweaty—very akin to the feel of Parker’s civil rights tale, Mississippi Burning, the following year.

Trevor Jones’ score is a great mixture of tense jarring notes and loose jazzy riffs. Constantly in a flux between moody and almost exuberant, the music paints the time and place of both New York and Louisiana wonderfully.

Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) plays down and out gumshoe, “Harry Angel”—a smart-mouthed private dick roaming the streets of Harlem looking for answers. The film is told from Harry’s point of view, each twist and turn, throwing he and the audience around. Rourke does a great job of carrying the film—finding a balance between the “Shamus” archtype and a more naturalistic representation of a decent man in a filthy business.

Screen icon and method acting legend, Robert De Niro (Midnight Run), chews the scenery as “Louis Cyphre”—a mysterious figure, dressed in black, donning sharp fingernails gripping elegant canes. De Niro plays Harry’s intimidating client with such an eerie calm and frightening physicality that the few scenes he’s in opposite Rourke are some of the very best. When the two such instinctively talented actors face off, mentally jousting with each other, truly timeless moments unfold.

As the young Creole, “Epiphany Proudfoot,” Lisa Bonet, fresh off the ever so wholesome Cosby Show, gives an unflinching performance full of innocence, blended together with extreme sensuality and danger.

Angel Heart is a film that is so well crafted that it is worth watching again even once you know where it leads.

Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Feb 17, 2009 3:34pm
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