Angel Heart (1987)
No matter how cleverly you sneak up on a mirror, your reflection always looks you straight in the eye - Louis Cyphere
I not so much hate movies like "Angel Heart" but dislike how they make me feel because I don't know how it makes me feel. On one hand I think director Alan Parker has delivered a stylish, often disturbing movie and has got excellent performances from its stars Mickey Rourke and Robert De Niro. But on the other the actual storyline which sees low rate detective Harold Angel trying to track down someone for the ominous Louis Cyphre does little to enthral me. Yet the surprise ending is brilliant, a wonderful twist which you may think you can see coming but are never entirely sure it will be as you expect. So it leaves me in a quandary because I like and dislike "Angel Heart" and wish that the storyline had been as good as they styling, acting and ending to make it feel complete.
Low rate detective Harold Angel (Mickey Rourke - Nine 1/2 Weeks) is approached by an attorney working for the secretive Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro - Raging Bull) who wants a man, Johnny Favorite, tracked down as he has a vested interest in this man who prior to the war had been a crooner but disappeared after returning a disturbed man. Drawn into a world of Voodoo, Angel is disturbed by much of what he encounters as he witnesses black magic and finds himself a suspect in a series of gruesome murders. But with almost every line of enquiry turning hostile and Cyphre pushing Angel to find his man thinks take a disturbing twist.
The thing about "Angel Heart" is that it is a movie which ends up all about the ending, the big twist which in fairness it hints at but never confirms leaving you wondering whether your suspicions will be correct. But because of this it keeps you watching which is a good thing because whilst the storyline sees Harold Angel drawn into this world of black magic and murder it is not exactly exciting. Everything builds to the ending as first Angel has an encounter with a palm reader then meets the daughter of Johnny and has a run in with a musician but it almost feels like a confusing series of elements. You can't quite join the dots as to how everything links together and some encounters seem strange and out of place.
But then "Angel Heart" feels like a very stylish movie with director Alan Parker not only trying to create an ominous atmosphere but also a quirky one. So we go from Angel's first creepy meeting with Cyphre, a further one where we see the mysterious mans pointed nails yet then we have the quirky man and wife on the beach with him giving Angel a nose shield. For everything which works to create this curious, unsettling atmosphere there is something which doesn't which jars. Without revealing too much when you hear the police tell Angel that a man died of asphyxiation from his own genitalia it makes you double take, it is quirky and gives you horrible visions but at the same time it doesn't fit in with everything else.
And that is a shame because Parker has got from Mickey Rourke one of his finest performances from his first career as an actor. There is still an element of the sexual playboy about Angel, and yes there is one hell of a sex scene in "Angel Heart", but Rourke is toned down, edgy and uneasy, sweaty and a bit seedy which makes him interesting. The way he goes from cocky to unsure is just as fascinating especially in the presence of Louis Cyphre. Talking of which Robert De Niro is extraordinary as Cyphre because for what is a small part he makes him seriously creepy with just a look, a glare, a smile, a sudden crack of his hand. It is De Niro more than anything which helps put you on edge because he is unsettling and leads you into this guessing game.
What this all boils down to is that "Angel Heart" is a movie which has so much which is good about it but because the storyline feels disjointed and ends up coming across as style over substance it just doesn't quite work. Having said that there is a terrific ending and terrific performances which make worth watching even when it seems to lose the flow of things.
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