Saturday, March 09, 2013

Angel Food Heart

A twist ending about the protagonist of the movie does not a "psychological horror film" make, but that's what Wikipedia calls 1987's Angel Heart. It's certainly horror and certainly noir, with some effective if dated atmosphere and an endearing, archetypal hard boiled detective in the lead. It's also a bit silly and too caught up in plot mechanics to fulfil a fascinating potential.

This is the first pre-plastic surgery Mickey Rourke movie I've seen and I must say it's stunning how different he looks. Not just his face but his physique, too--he seems like a little guy. A totally different guy, that's for sure.

Despite how 80s he looks in this screenshot (one can almost sense high top sneakers), this movie's set in the 1940s and in style and plot is largely a homage to classic films noir. Rourke plays Harry Angel, that hard boiled detective I mentioned, and he's hired by a mysterious, fastidious bearded gentleman (Robert De Niro) to track down a singer named Johnny. Of course, Harry ends up on a trail fraught with murder and dangerous dames, including Charlotte Rampling in too brief a role as a fortune teller.

It's always nice to see her, even if her American accent doesn't even approach passable.

When I was a kid, I do vaguely remember the controversy about Lisa Bonet in this film, though I was carefully shielded from knowledge as to what she was actually up to in it (maybe I'd have found out if I'd cared very much). It seems pretty quaint now, and gives one a dose of perspective to note how only twenty six years ago something like taking a racy role in a rated R movie would be a scandal for someone starring in a popular television series.

But it isn't like she had a topless scene. No, actually, it's that she has one scene where you don't see her nipples, and two scenes where she's having an orgasm under raining blood. If it were to-day, it's hard to imagine people who didn't see the movie batting an eye. It's kind of charming the people of the 1980s were so sensitive that they were genuinely shocked by make believe.

The first scene where she's having fun in the blood is a voodoo ritual scene because a large portion of the movie takes place in fantasy New Orleans, where one is bound to run into decadent chicken sacrifice set to music eventually.

I won't tell you much more about the plot, beyond mentioning that there's a really hilariously bad special effect at the end, because as I said the movie doesn't have much to give once you've taken out it's plot--though I'm pretty sure most people will have anticipated the biggest twist about a third of the way through the movie (I know I did). But as a point of criticism, and I'll try not to get too specific . . . A character study of someone who's done something horrible that doesn't give a character a chance to see his own motives and circumstance, isn't really a study at all.

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