Angel Heart is the film your smug film buddy name drops and then says, “Wait, you haven’t seen Angel Heart?” Well, I’ve got news for you, buddy, I have seen it. I think the reason not many people have seen Angel Heart is because it’s a difficult film to sell. It’s kind of noir, kind of horror, kind of fantasy, kind of all over the place. Also, it stars Mickey Rourke who’s career fell into limbo not long after. Though Rourke did do some interesting work. I’m not sure if I love Angel Heart but it holds my attention. I mean, this is Robert De Niro and Mickey Rourke at the top of their game.
Mickey Rourke is Harry Angel (eh? Like the title) a scrappy gumshoe working in the ghettos of New York City. Harry receives a call from a man named Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro) and meets Cyphre in a Harlem office shared with a Satanic cult. Nothing weird about that. Cyphre is on the lookout for a missing singer named Johnny Favorite who he helped become successful. Cyphre stands to benefit from collateral on Favorite’s death and suspects that a private upstate hospital is issuing false reports about Favorite. Angel sets out on a case down dim alleyways, dead ends, and dead bodies.
I’m not going to get into the path Angel goes down or even the film’s ending. Though I will reveal something you might already know. Hmm, “Louis Cyphre”? Looks kind of like “Lucifer”, right? Yep, but the twist goes so much deeper. I’ll leave that for you to find out because typing it out would only ruin its elegance.
Angel meets plenty of interesting characters along the way. Perhaps the most notable are the sexy Lisa Bonet and a fast-talking blues musician played by real-life singer Brownie McGhee. These characters populate a dingy and urine soaked world with deceit, lies, and murder. It may sound like your typical noir film and in many ways it is, but it’s the hints of the supernatural that set it apart.
And what about Mickey Rourke? Despite all the demons he’s battled in his life, I don’t think Mickey Rourke ever stopped being talented. Here he is pitch perfect as a no-nonsense detective who doesn’t give a shit about anyone or anything. One of my favorite quotes describing Mickey Rourke comes from Roger Ebert: “No other actor, with the possible exception of France’s Gerald Depardieu, has made such a career out of being a slob.” It’s true, Mickey Rourke is a greasy mess, but a greasy mess of talent. The man should have gone on to be far more famous.
Angel Heart is confusing. Constantly, I would rewind to make sure I was following along, but once you piece it together it is truly satisfying. I’m not sure if the end result is what I’d call a horror movie, but it certainly made me uncomfortable like horror movies do. Particularly, De Niro with his long nails, greasy long hair, and piercing eyes. The man gives me the creeps. This goes right up there with Dirty Grandpa for most disturbing De Niro performances.
De Niro sure looks a lot like Scorsese in this movie. GASP! Is Scorsese the devil?!?