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... when it brings no profit to the wise? On the surface, that seems to
be the moral of "Angel Heart." But look a little deeper -- the fact is,
Harry Angel knew the truth all along, and here's the true moral:
"However cleverly you sneak up on a mirror... your reflection always looks you straight in the eye."
Much of the meaning in this dark tale lies in the above line uttered by DeNiro's character, Louis Cyphre. We can pretend to lie to ourselves and bury our heads in the sand, but in the end we know. And it isn't the knowing that hurts us, but all the hiding and lying that went on before.
This film has been summed up many times before, so I won't do it again. It's also been said that the film was ahead of its time in 1987, and IMO this can't be emphasized enough. There's no doubt in my mind that it's been an influence on many a filmmaker and screenwriter. Among films of this type it's easier to follow than, say, "Memento," but more befuddled and confusing than "The Sixth Sense." You may or may not guess the ending, but if you're the type who's bothered by confusing movies -- simply read all the spoilers or the whole screenplay, THEN see the film! I guarantee you won't enjoy it any less for knowing.
Cinematography 10/10, screenplay 7/10, acting 9.5/10, overall I'd give it about a 9/10. If anything makes this movie great (and qualifies it as a classic) it's the cinematography and atmosphere. It really is richly and gorgeously shot, and atmospheric to the nth degree. Watch it on a slow day when you have time to savor these things and aren't overly anxious to figure it out or discover the resolution to the story.
I was stunned at what this film did to me. An absolutely brilliant
display of psychological horror. Alan Parker made the scariest film of
the eighties, maybe the scariest film of the second half of the century
with this picture. The hell with "Psycho", "Angel Heart" is where it's
at if you want horror.
I don't know how Parker hasn't become the Hitchcock of his generation after this film. I know some of his other work - "Evita" and Mississippi Burning" are two films of his that I happen to think are pretty good. But they're nothing like this. What Parker does so well here, what he seems to get better than any other director I've noticed since this film was made, is how atmosphere makes a movie. He has a real sense of place and time that's a key component to making the terror of this movie real.
Aside from Parker's talents, there are three performances without which the movie just wouldn't work.
Robert de Niro gives the second best performance of his career here, right next to "Raging Bull", and even that's pretty close. I'm not even normally a huge fan of de Niro's - I mean, don't get me wrong, he's a legend, but I find most of the time that I'm less impressed with him than most people are. Not here. In this movie, de Niro makes the simple act of eating an egg into a treatise on mortal dread. He should have received the Oscar for this performance, no question about it.
Lisa Bonet - what happened to her? Every couple of years I'll see her in something like this or "High Fidelity", and she's got all this charisma - she really is a superb actress. What she does here is really interesting because you can see that it's very underdone, a lot of subtlety. Which is a strange way to go if you're playing a voodoo priestess. But she's very vulnerable here. I think it's a shame she didn't become the star she could have. I'd love to see more work from her.
Mickey Rourke is another resident of the "Where are they now?" file. I've heard more from him recently though. He's been making a comeback of sorts. He's actually the primary reason I rented this movie, because I saw him in Sean Penn's "The Pledge" and wanted to see more of his stuff. He's the third performance that makes this movie complete, and he's the one who really has the hardest job, who has to strap it to his back and get it across the finish line. His is also the most important job, because he needs to instill the terror in you. It's through his eyes that you witness these bizarre events, and it's his reaction that makes it all the more terrifying.
Again, brilliant. Can't say enough about it. The last thirty seconds or so kind of sucks (those of you who've seen it know what I'm referring to), but I can just turn it off before that. Oddly, it doesn't ruin what's come before.
"Angel Heart" deserves to be considered Alan Parker's masterpiece. The
direction is truly amazing, as Parker drives us deeply through a
meticulously prepared dark atmosphere, full of allegories and secret
In "Angel Heart", we watch Mickey Rourke in his finest acting hour, who plays Harry Angel, a private investigator hired by the mysterious Louis Cyphre, depicted by the great Robert De Niro. Cyphre assigns Angel the task to find a guy named Johnny Favorite who has disappeared, with whom he has unsettled debts. The task is much harder than it first looks however, as Angel bumps into several murders in the process; and as if that were not enough, the quest makes him realize some very unpleasant truths about himself and Mr. Cyphre.
As noted before, both Rourke and De Niro are excellent in their roles; a high mark goes for the rest of the cast as well, with Lisa Bonnet standing out as charming and apocryphal Epiphany Proudfoot. Yet, the 10/10 mark for this film is definitely credited to Alan Parker's direction: It is his masterpiece.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Angel Heart is a winding psychological thriller that -- in 1987 -- was far
ahead of its time. So far that audiences didn't `get it' and the film bombed
at the box office. Only now are we beginning to see endings like this one
surface in horror movies. Had Angel Heart been made a decade or so later,
perhaps it would have succeeded.
As it is, the movie which has a strong cult following and was recently re-released on a Special Edition DVD is nothing short of mesmerizing. I wouldn't go so far as to call it great, or a `masterpiece,' but it is scary, disturbing, influential, thought-provoking, and a lot smarter and more atmospheric than 99% of the rip-off horror movies being made today.
It stars Mickey Rourke as Harry Angel, a private eye from Brooklyn in the 1950s who is hired by Louis Cyphere (Robert De Niro) to locate a mysterious singer named Johnny Favorite, who disappeared in the early 40s and hasn't been seen since.
Angel's journey takes him from the streets of New York to jazz clubs in Harlem and, finally, to the sweltering swamps of Louisiana. He meets a variety of characters, all of who have little to say about Favorite. All we seem to know is that he was a singer, entered the war, and was shot, had his face reconstructed, was taken out of hospital care, and apparently vanished from the face of the earth.
I guessed the twist of the movie about seven minutes in, as soon as Robert De Niro appeared on screen during an extended cameo.
But that's not to say that the movie won't affect you. Notorious when released for some controversial scenes (including a sequence involving Rourke and The Cosby Show's Lisa Bonet), the movie's moody atmosphere is its strongest element.
The acting, too, is very strong. This is Rourke's finest performance, as Harry Angel, a scumbag detective with nothing to lose. On the new DVD, Rourke claims he wasn't very interested in acting at the time, and as a result `just showed up' and `memorized the lines.' I find that hard to believe Rourke's acting here is Oscar-worthy. His recent descent into self-loathing has caused his career to fall apart (he was never enthusiastic about acting and wanted to become a boxer instead); he shouldn't discredit his earlier work merely because he's upset with his life.
The role of Louis Cyphere (get it?) is also one of De Niro's most ambitious performances; he delves entirely into character and leaves a lasting impact on the viewer.
It was directed by (Sir) Alan Parker, the famous British filmmaker (of, among others, Midnight Express). Some say this is his finest film wonderfully crafted, beautifully shot, masterfully edited and I'd have to say that if it isn't his best, it certainly ranks somewhere at the top.
I'm not in the least surprised that other reviewers either love this or
hate it to bits - I also bet that it's the younger users to whom the
nature of the visual narrative of the film - the way it's all told to
us, the viewer - may seem a bit dated. And to a point, they're right -
"Angel Heart" is totally an eighties film, a film of the decade in
which the movie world was discovering a new visual language in video
and playfully indulged in experimenting with its new toy. It was
literally speaking to a generation straight out of MTV classrooms and
workshops and is in that sense very similar to stuff like "Betty Blue".
And true enough, there is a lot to remark on what can today be seen as
a slightly poseur-ish "one too many revolving fans, angularly lit
staircases and heartbeat sounds in the soundtrack" kind of thing.
However, "Angel Heart" does carry a tremendous amount of energy thanks
to its imagery, which will stick to the viewer's mind in exactly the
same way a sweaty shirt sticks to the body in sticky weather. Besides,
the impeccably drawn cast led by Rourke does a truly remarkable job -
that's beyond question - the sets are great, production design and
cinematography are very evocative, the soundtrack is memorable and the
story is one of the crucial ones. I personally love it.
Give it a go by all means.
And I can't believe I never threw my two cents in about this one. When I first saw Angel Heart, I thought it was going to be your regular old mystery. Like a Mamet or Spillane yarn about a down on his luck private investigator drawn into a web of lies and deceit Oh yeah, it IS like that and then some. I was completely drawn into this movie. I found it perfectly paced. And just like other movies of this type, could not see the end coming at all. However from the beginning it felt like something was kind of different about THIS yarn. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Kind of like the feeling you get as your walking out of the house and you just know you forgot something but you can't remember what. It was like that, a nagging at the back of your brain' feeling. And then, oh boy! When all is revealed you wish you would have just left without what ever it was you were missing, cause what you find is oh-so frightening. What a terribly wonderful story and what great direction. I can't think of anybody better that De Niro for the roll he played. If you own it: watch in again. If you haven't seen it, you must.
I do not go much for that Parker kind of stuff("Midnight express" ,albeit technically breathtaking was a little racist,"Shoot the moon" was a big bore,and you've got to be into Pink Floyd to appreciate such a work as "the wall")"Angel Heart " is a different matter,because it deals with the horror and fantasy genre.Against all odds,for someone who had never tackled this difficult genre,Parker succeeded magnificently.The screenplay is first-rate,with a strong story,with an ending you'll never guess (and I will not reveal it of course!)Including drugs,voodoo,sabbath ,intense love scenes,featuring a wonderful cast:Rourke,who had never been better (and never would)and a frighteningly deadpan DeNiro cast as Louis Cipher,this movie takes us along in a meandering,labyrinthine investigation in which private detective Rourke will find so dreadful things he won't escape unharmed. The supporting cast is excellent:Charlotte Rampling stays only a few minutes on the screen ,and yet,we remember her and her tea.The same goes for the junkie doctor.I'd tone it for one thing:the elevator scene might have been borrowed from an old French movie,"Huis clos",directed by Jacqueline Audry,from Jean-Paul Sartre's play(1956).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Good supernatural thrillers with the incarnation of Satan himself as a pivot figure .we don't see enough of these films, if you ask me. Alan Parker's `Angel Heart' is one of the chosen few! Complex and confusing at times, but warmly recommended to fans of the occult and mysterious cinema. Mickey Rourke shines as protagonist Harry Angel. An unshaved, chain-smoking private eye with a chicken-phobia! The year is 1955 and the place is Brooklyn when Harry is hired by a malevolent Mr. Louis Cyphre (pronounce this name aloud a few times in a row) to find a missing crooner, who got severely traumatized in the war. The money is good and the job doesn't seem that risky, so Harry accepts. Pretty soon, the search takes him to all kinds of poverty, human misery, superstition and alternate religions. Every important figure in the search for Johnny Favorite (the crooner) finds a violent death after Harry talked to them and, apparently, our private detective is a lot more involved than he initially thought. As mentioned before, Angel Heart is a darn complex and very coherent film. One viewing is enough to understand the entire premise and main storylines, but a second (third or fourth) viewing sure isn't redundant. It would be a shame if any of the carefully worked out details and character-connections would go unnoticed. `Angel Heart' (and especially cinematographer Michael Seresin) also receives a huge plus for the dark and depressing portrayal of the film's surrounding. Angel Heart looks unattractive, vile and ominous which creates a superb horrific atmosphere. The supernatural aspects about the story are a bit overly stressed by clichés like silent and staring nuns or foggy New York suburbs. But this small negative element is largely made up by the subtle violence and compelling mystery this film features. The acting is outstanding with Rourke at the absolute top of his career. During the second half of the 80's, Mickey was the unforgettable star of several brilliant films such as `Barfly', `Year of the Dragon', `Nine ½ Weeks' and of course this `Angel Heart'. Robert DeNiro as Louis Cyphre was a downright brilliant casting idea! There isn't that much De Niro content in this film but, when he's on screen, evilness nearly drips from the screen. Bobby De Niro is probably one of the only actors who can make it look eerie to eat an egg! Lisa Bonet, in conclusion, isn't the world's most talented actress but Angel Heart sure is her best film. All in one, Angel Heart is a very good film that'll be appreciated by thriller fans and the admirer of slightly more intelligent horror.
Harry Angel(Mickey Rourke) is a sleazy private detective in 1955 New York.
One day, Harry is approached by a mysterious lawyer named Louis
Cyphre(Robert De Niro). Louis also has unusually long fingernails and needs
help in searching for a former client of his who disappeared mysteriously
without ever paying him back. So Harry begins his investigation which takes
him from the dark alleys and streets of New York to the hot, musty bayous of
Louisiana. While there, he meets up with Epiphany Proudfoot(Lisa Bonet) who
is a voodoo priestess and soon enough Harry becomes caught up in voodoo
This is the first movie directed by Alan Parker that I've seen and is also the movie that introduced me to Mickey Rourke. The movie has a really dark atmosphere and I really like the heartbeat on the soundtrack that helps to build the tension. "Angel Heart" ranks up there with those really twisted supernatural thrillers like "The Sixth Sense" and "Jacob's Ladder". Why this movie hasn't gotten much attention over the last fourteen years I'll never know. What really makes this movie good is probably its 1950s setting which gives "Angel Heart" some originality. The film's ending just gives me the creeps because it just comes at you from out of no where and there is nothing that hints it. Viewers should also be cautioned when watching "Angel Heart" because it is extremely bloody and then of course there is that love scene between Mickey Rourke and Lisa Bonet which stirred up a little bit of controversy when it was first released back in 1987.
This is a very sordid film. I usually don't go for that sort of thing,
but there are a lot of other good things about this movie that made me
add this to my collection.
There is very good cinematography and camera-work in here, made even better by the special edition DVD transfer. I liked the old film-noir type atmosphere in the story, which is an interesting one overall.
There are no really good-guy characters in this film. Mickey Rourke plays the star of the movie: private eye "Harry Angel." He's somewhat of a low-life but so is everyone else. Lisa Bonet looks spectacular and has a steamy sex scene in here. Robert De Niro gets big billing but he doesn't have that many lines in this film.
The ending of this movie has a very unique twist to it, but it's certainly not a satisfying ending. It is one I should go back over after the next viewing and check for credibility. That's all I can say without using spoilers.
Overall, a sleazy but very intriguing story, with great atmosphere, that I enjoy watching every five years or so. Some would call this movie a modern-day "film noir."
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