DIRECTED BY: Alan Parker
FEATURING: Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro, Lisa Bonet
PLOT: 1950s private eye Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) is hired by a suave,
sartorial client (Robert DeNiro) to track down a crooner; as the search takes him from Harlem to New Orleans, Angel finds that every lead he interviews ends up dead.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: With its (sometimes literally) dripping atmosphere, mysterious dreamlike flashbacks, and a conclusion that will chill the blood if you don’t see it coming, Angel Heart appeals to lovers of the weird. In the end, however, this macabre film noir is simply too conventional to be weird, a standard detective story with the supernatural grafted onto it. The fact that the mystery is completely and satisfactorily resolved at the end leaves us little wonder to carry forward.
COMMENTS: There was one throwaway scene that almost tipped Angel Heart into the weird column. Angel is standing on the beach at Coney Island, backing off from the oncoming tide, wearing a plastic nose shield on his sunglasses (more than a little reminiscent of the bandage Jack Nicholson wore in Chinatown) on an overcast day, and talking to the wife of a carnival geek as she soaks her varicose veins in the Atlantic. Now that’s a situation you don’t find yourself in everyday! Had there been more subtly off-kilter scenes like this peppered throughout, Angel Heart could have been a weird classic.
On its original release, the film was notorious for the bloody, MPAA-enraging sex scene with recent ex-Cosby kid Lisa Bonet. The scene still packs a wallop today, and is even more memorable because it isn’t wholly gratuitous, but has a horrifying significance within the context of the story.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“‘Angel Heart,’ with its stigmatic sets and satanic text, makes the perfect cult movie just as the Rev. Jones made the perfect batch of Kool-Aid. It already has assured itself a limited audience, as most moviegoers will be repulsed by the needless gore, including sudden open-heartsurgery and assorted other murder-mutilations. The lot overwhelms this devilishly clever detective allegory, a supernatural variation on ’50s pulp mysteries.” –Rita Kempley, Washington Post (contemporaneous)