Angel Heart (1987) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • Harry Angel has a new case, to find a man called Johnny Favourite. Except things aren't quite that simple and Johnny doesn't want to be found. Let's just say that amongst the period detail and beautiful scenery, it all gets really really nasty.

  • It's 1955. Small time New York City gumshoe Harry Angel is hired through a law firm by a mysterious man named Louis Cyphre. Cyphre tells Harry that choosing him as the private investigator for this case was by no accident despite Harry not knowing who Cyphre is or in turn Cyphre not directly stating why he chose Harry. The case is to locate a man by the name of Johnny Favorite, a popular singer before World War II, who served in the war and supposedly was institutionalized due to his injuries since, although Cyphre has not seen Favorite during that time. As Harry progresses through the case, he doesn't quite trust Cyphre as every step Harry takes leads to people angry about his questions and/or who want to beat him. Johnny's associates are highly populated by those into mysticism and particularly voodoo, which takes Harry to New Orleans. As Harry continues his investigation, one by one, the people he interviews turn up dead. Although Harry isn't sure if he wants to continue with the case, he does so if only to satisfy his own curiosity as to Johnny's whereabouts and why Cyphre wants to find him.

  • In 1955, in New York, the smalltime private detective Harold Angel is summoned by the attorney Herman Winesap to meet his client Louis Cypher. Angel learns that a popular pre-war crooner, Johnny Favorite, had a contract with Cypher and vanished; Cypher offers a large amount for him to seek out Johnny. Angel heads to a clinic where Johnny was last seen and visits the addicted Dr. Albert Fowler, who tells that Johnny was shot in the face and arrived in the clinic with amnesia and dysfunctional. One day, a man and his daughter took Johnny with them and he was paid to forge the records. When Angel visits Dr. Fowler again, he finds him dead. Then he visits Johnny's former lover Margaret Krusemark expecting to find the location of Johnny and later the woman is murdered. Then he visits the musician and former partner of Johnny, Toots Sweet, and the man is killed immediately after. Angel leaves a blood trail behind, but when he meets Margaret's father Ethan Krusemark, he finds the doomed fate of Johnny Favorite.

  • A private investigator is hired by a man who calls himself Louis Cyphre to track down a singer named Johnny Favorite. But the investigation takes an unexpected and somber turn.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Angel Heart (1987)

    An ominous street; midnight, a dark figure walks down an alley, past the sounds of anguish and moaning. A lone cat looks down from the fire escape, a street dog wanders the alley scrounging for food. The dog spots the cat and barks, giving chase only to stop briefly to lap up fresh blood pouring from the split chest of a homeless man.


    New York, 1955, a man in a trench coach walks a street in Brooklyn, he smokes and greets various neighbours to the constant sound of a phone ringing.

    Harold Angel (Mickey Rourke), enters his office and answers the phone, he is a private investigator, and writes down details of the caller. An attorney, Mr. Winesap, introduces himself and sets up a meeting, with Luis Cyphre in Harlem.

    Angel arrives, and walks through an African-American neighbourhood, passing a group of mourners, and enters a building where an evangelist ceremony is being held in progress, the preacher motivates the congregation to donate generously, with the intention to upgrade his car. Harold watches cynically from the gallery above, and is joined by Herman Winesap, who introduces himself and leads him to meet the client. Angel follows him past a room where a maid is scrubbing a massive blood stain from the wall. "A suicide from one of their flock." Winesap introduces Angel to the client, Mr Luis Cyphre (Robert De Niro).

    Cyphre asks for identification. Fans spin. Cyphre takes his time checking the ID, but is satisfied. Angel inquires how they found him, Cyphre interrupts with a question "Do you know Johnny Favourite?" A singer.

    Angel explains he is a small timer on the job, Cyphre pays no attention, and continues to say Favourite's real name was Johnny Liebling. Winestead explains that Cyphre had a contract with him and that he had an accident and got amnesia. Cyphre cuts in and asks if Angel was in the war. Angel tells his story, yes he was, but came back prematurely a bit fucked up.

    Apparently Cyphre just wants to know if his client is alive or dead, and believes that they where deceived, and so they want Angel to "check it out". Cyphre thinks they have met before. Angel is certain they haven't.

    Angel drives away remembering the conversation points, whistling as he drives, he arrives at the hospital where the singer was supposed to have been. He presents an appropriate ID card, and enters to charm the receptionist, and despite her resistance she shows him the records regarding Jonathan Liebling. He chats casually with the receptionist, and discovers that he was transferred in 1943. He inspects the report, to notice that signature is in ball point, a Dr. Fouler. He observes that in 1943 they did not have ball point, and deducts it is a forgery. He asks about the doctor, only to be told that Dr. Fouler no longer works there.

    Angel leaves the hospital, drives to the city, and looks up the address of the doctor; goes to the house and breaks in through the back door. Inside the house he finds syringes, a revolver and a bible in a drawer, and drugs in the fridge. He waits in the dark, as the doctor arrives. The doc makes a bee-line for the fridge, and Angel interrupts him.

    They chat, and the doc does not call the police cause of the illegal substance in his house. Angel ask about Lieblin, and the doctor reveals very little, making excuses, and Angel exposes him. Angel gets rough. The doc says that some people took Leibler away. Angel get pissed off; he wants more details. He finds out that the people that took him went down south and paid him to maintain the pretense he was still at the hospital. Doc says his face was damaged and that he could not recognise him. Angel decides that cold turkey would refresh his memory. He locks him in his room.

    Angel leaves, passing a church as he walks through the snow. A strange voice calls out "Johnny" and he is lured into the church. Two nuns look up. He imagines a trellis elevator arriving and the doors opening. Angel spends his time in a diner smoking; the diner is empty. A piano plays an old song slowly and ominously. He finishes his coffee, returns to Dr. Fouler's apartment, and takes some morphine up to the doctor's room, unlocks the door to find the doctor violently murdered, shot in the eye. He lights a match on his shoe, sees the gun from the draw, and that the bible concealed bullets. He wipes the flat of prints, and leaves like a thief.

    The next day, Angel is in the hood and meets Ellie, leaving in a car. He flirts a little and goes to a restaurant to meet with Cyphre. The restaurant is empty. Cyphre does not look amused, he asks about Johnny, and he tells Cyphre that he walked out of the hospital with a girl named Kelly, and the rest of the story as related by the doctor. They chat as Cyphre eats an egg. Cyphre insists Angel find Johnny. Angel tells Cyphre about the doctor, and tries to leave the case, since now he is an accomplice to murder, he wants out. Cyphre ups the payment considerably, and Angel is interested.

    Cyphre eats the egg in an almost violent manner staring strangely at Angel, telling him in some cultures the egg is the symbol of the soul.

    Angel returns to the first church, and finds the blood smeared room clean, and also discovers a strange occult shrine. A street procession march, the preacher carried along surrounded by his congregation. Angel observes the shrine, concluding it is obviously occultic and deeply disturbing.

    When he leaves a single mourning woman dressed in black catches his attention, he approaches her, but is attacked from behind. He runs off and is chased into the back alley. He escapes by joining the street procession. The preacher is knocked from his suspended chair and crashes to the floor.

    Angel arrives at a bar to meet his secretary, who has some photos he needs to collect of Johnny. Later she tells him what she found. As they undress, she tells him where to find some key people: a rich woman, a jazz player and says that they were all involved in magic. The woman was known as the witch of Wellesley. Angel sarcastically summarises the case and has a flash memory of soldiers returning from war; a spiral staircase, and someone ascending; feet of a woman that sits down, and fans spinning.

    Angel, in his office, at night, listens to tape recorded facts, and adds more data about the doctor, and about how he tracked down Spider Simpson, and more info about the jazz player, Toots Sweet. Apparently Johnny had a black lover down south, that ran a magic store, and details about Madam Zorra, another person that he saw regularly.

    On the beach, a single man in a deck chair, Angel talks to this guy named Izzy, and asks after Madam Zorra, a friend of his wife; Angel asks about Johnny and is directed to his wife standing in the sea, but gives some more info about the crooner. Angel goes off to talk to the wife, more about Madam Zorra, she tells Angel that Johnny and she were very close, and that Margaret Krusemark was Madam Zorra, and that they went down south. She sings a tune of Favourites. Angel leaves her singing and thanks the man for the nose shield telling him he is headed for Louisiana.

    Angel arrives at the station, and is hot and sweaty. Street boys tap dance to a brass band, Angel has only a single suitcase, and in a hotel room, changes his shirt. The boys dance outside, as he walks around. Life is calm, and Angel takes a tram after spotting a woman board it. He watches her from behind, fascinated. She alights and he follows at a distance. He rings the bell to her apartment.

    Margaret Krusemark (Charlotte Rampling) greets him by name, he enters with an appointment. Her apartment is strangely decorated. She takes his details for a fortune reading, he plays with a curious artifact, a strange knife. When offered a drink he asks for tea, and the maid prepares it. Angel fiddles around as she questions him. He makes idle chitter chatter. The woman relieves the maid. He tries to smoke but she asks him not to. She asks for specific birth details. Angel gives her a birthdate, she notices that it is the same as a "friend" and he approaches the subject directly. He mentions Johnny Favourite, he tells her he is investigating, and she tells him he is dead, and tells him to leave. He persists. She throws him out. She reads his palm at the door, he notices her necklace, a pentacle.

    It is raining, when Angel arrives at a voodoo shop. He enters and it is full of strange shit. He asks about Evangeline Proudfoot (the other lover), he tries to get info about Proudfoot, and the store owner tells him where she lives. Angel buy some roots and leaves.

    Angel hires a car for a week, and drives through an outback landscape, this is the home of a poor community. Here he finds Proudfoot's grave. Behind the graveyard a baby cries, and a woman with a child arrives. Angel recedes into the shadows to watch the woman and changes offerings on the grave, then leaves with the her young son. Angel follows her home and watches from a distance. She washes her hair. She is a very beautiful young African-American woman.

    Angel approaches her, her child starts crying. Angel introduces himself, he wants to talk to the young woman's mother, the young woman's name being Epiphany Proudfoot (Lisa Bonet). She tells him her mother is dead. He asks about Favourite and she knows nothing. Some chickens approach, and Angel is disturbed by them. He then asks about the musician, and Epiphany doesn't say anything. As Angel is about to leave, he gives Epiphany his number. He compliments her. There is chemistry. Angel leaves.

    Johnny visits a jazz bar. The bar is packed, and the patrons are enjoying the act. Toots Sweets (Brownie McGhee) is the musician. Angel enjoys the gig and at the break follows the singer to the bar. He schmoozes with him, and asks about Favourite. Toots cuts to the chase, and leaves for the toilet. He is not engaged at all. Angel follows him to the loo. Toots is not impressed, another man leaves and Toots is shocked by a chicken foot left on the sink, Angel grabs the claw and harasses him until a bouncer enters, seeing Angel intimidating Toots and throws him out the back door of the bar, into the trash.

    Angel waits in his car until Toots leaves, at the end of the night, and follows him into the countryside. It is very late at night. He then watches Toots join ritual dancing, as Angel watches from the bushes. He sees Epiphany dance, slit a chickens throat, and pour blood over herself, she is in a trance, and even drinks its blood. Angel hurries off.

    A fan spins slowly in a dark stairwell, Toots ascends the stairs, and at his doorway Angel grabs him but Toots fights back with a razor, and cuts Angel's hand. It gets rough until Angel dominates the old man. He threatens him and tells him he saw the ritual, Toots tells him Epiphany is a priestess. Angel asks what the chicken foot meant. It means Toots has a big mouth. Angel relaxes as he writes his telephone number on paper, which he stuffs in Toot's mouth before he leaves. Angel drops the razor as he descends the stairs.

    Johnny enters a dark room at the foot of an elevator, the mourning woman sits on a church bench, her back to him. He sees the razor on the floor, his cut hand bleeds profusely, his shirt is covered in blood, he approaches the woman, and as he touches her shoulder he is woken up by two local cops.

    They search his stuff, ask him questions and give him a hand written note that they found on the body of Toots sweet. They tell him that his dick was cut off and stuffed in his mouth. They interrogate Angel. He lies about what he is doing, and tells them to call Winesap. They tell him not to go away until they talk to the lawyer. It is Wednesday, "Anything Can Happen Day."

    Angel goes to a bar. A musician finishes playing, and pass his hat for tips. Angel goes to a phone booth and calls Margaret Krusack. In the booth mirror he sees scenes of an elevator, a post war celebration, a block of flats, more celebrating, a fan in an apartment block, celebrating and just as a soldier is about to turn around the jazz man interrupts asking for a donation. There is no answer to the phone call, Angel hangs up.

    He returns to Margaret's house, kids tap dance outside, a piano repeats a familiar tune. The door is unlocked, he enters and she is on the floor, with her chest cut wide open. He is revolted, and finds the knife he was fingering earlier. He searches through her stuff, and finds a mummified hand in a cardboard box on the dresser amoungst other vials and strange jewelry. The kid outside tap dances. He leaves that room to continue his search.The kid dances. Angel finds her severed heart, he gags. The kid stops dancing.

    Angel walks past a church and into the bar. A fans spins slowly, a piano plays a familiar tune.

    Local hillbilly people rejoice in a river at a baptism, they look inbred. Overhead Angel drives across the river, behind him a pickup truck follows. He notices and stops his car on the side of the road, the truck stops too. He approaches some fishermen. The men in the truck follow and unleash a dog, it attacks his leg. He fights it off, the men then attack him with a baseball bat, and tell him to leave immediately.

    An old school bus stops on a dusty road, engross alit, one being Epiphany, she finds Angel sitting on a box by the roadside, she asks and he tells her that he got bitten. He tells her he watched her ritual, it doesn't phase her. He tells her about Toots, she knows. He thinks she set him up. Turns out it was her that sent the chicken foot. She denies the setup and murder. She asks about Favourite, Angel counter questions and discovers Johnny Favourite was her father. She talks to a neighbour about keeping her child, then returns to tell him that Johnny never returned from the war and that her mom died waiting. Angel flirts with her. She brushes him off.

    In a dark-arched court yard of a residential hotel, Angel arrives and is given a message by the concierge. He walks past a young girl to ascend the stairs.

    A church choir sings, an alter boy prepares the bible. Angel enters and walks throughout the church to the back, to meet with Cyphre. They chat. He asks about the progress. Angel tells him that he found loads of stuff but still no favourite, and 3 murders: the Doctor, Toots and Margaret. He is freaked out by the weird religiocity going around. He tells him that Favourite was not liked. and that the police are investigating him. Cyphre asks about the last murder. Angel tells him about Margaret, and that he is fed up with the case, and all of the vagueness. And that he is getting setup by Johnny, who he thinks is killing all the people he once knew. Cyphre just wants the debt settled, and Angel is not having it. Cyphre offers more money, but Angel refuses, the stakes are getting too high. He wants out.

    He goes back to his room. It is raining heavily. Epiphany is sitting outside waiting. They have a drink. The apartment is leaking badly. Angel tells her that he thinks that Johnny was a creep. he ask more about him, she tells him that her mother thought Favourite was true evil and that he was a great lover. She was 17, Angel asks about the father of her son. They laugh about the state of the leaky room, she talks about witch craft, and getting pregnant. Then Epiphany puts on some music, and invites him to dance. He declines, only to revoke. He picks her up and they dance. She kisses him. They lay down. The rain pours. She straddles him. The rain gets harder. They make passionate love. They rain is pouring in the room, and the water turns red. She screams and it turns to blood. It gets very violent and intercut with ritual, elevator, widow. A fabrication. They orgasm. Angel immediately gets up and punches a shaving mirror.

    The cops return knocking. He exits in a towel. They are tracing the new death of Margaret. They are racist and state that Krusmark, comes from white family of money. Angel brushes them off. They want to know who he is seeking. He insults them. They get pissed off. The cops leave.

    He returns to his room, she is now in the bath singing the words to the familiar piano piece. He asks after the tune, "a tune by Favourite". She continues. Angel looks at himself in the broken mirror.

    He walks down the street, and sees the pickup trunk from before, is watching him. He quickly approaches, attacks the seated driver. The passenger runs off, Angel gives chase. The driver recovers and follows after them. Angel is lead into a stable. The passenger starts shooting. The horses go frantic, the driver sets a dog free, the dogs attacks only to be kicked by the horse, which then gets shot and falls on Angel. He is trapped but struggles free, he escapes by running through a chicken coup.

    A group of hicks gather skinning animals and commence to cock fighting. A rough horse race starts, someone points Angel to an elderly man. The mans asks what he wants. Angel knows that the two geezers are his men. The man tries to pay him off to reveal who Angel is working for. Angel tells him the facts he knows concerning his part in the release of Johnny Favourite, he is Margaret Krusemark's father (Stocker Fontelieu). The man gets nervous, they go into a kitchen, and have a drink where is it private. He confesses it was him that paid the doctor. He tells Angel that him and his daughter dropped Johnny in a crowd of people on new years eve. Angel fidgets with ice. The man tells Angel about Margaret's voodoo stuff and that he witnessed Favourite summon up Satan, he is a devoted satanist, and that says that Favourite sold his sold his soul to Satan for fame. Angel gets really mad, and starts yelling, "Who was the boy?" He tells him that Toots and Johnny took an innocent man, and conjured complex stuff, and then he ate his heart, to deceive the devil, it worked but Johnny was drafted. Angel runs into the toilet to vomit. Then looking at the mirror, has a flashback. The toilet door slams closed, and when Angel exits he finds the man face first in a cauldron of boiling soup. Angel takes off.

    Angel hastens back to his apartment, rushes upstairs, and enters searching frantically for something her father had mentioned, a vase. He ransacks the drawers, breaking and smashing everything. Finally he finds the vase, it contains army dog tags. The tags read "Harold Angel" Angel screams in disbelief. Pleading "I know who I am".

    Cyphre sits behind him smiling, in the apartment. Luis Cyphre is Lucifer. Angel tells him that he is not scared of him, and that he knows he is being set up, a frame. He did not kill anyone, he names the dead people. And Cyphre addresses him as Johnny, and contradicts saying that he DID kill them, and that he has been living on borrowed time. Angel threatens to call the lawyer, Cyphre smirks saying Winesap is already dead, Cyphre continues to say only the soul is important, and that his belongs to him. Cyphre picks up a record and a gun. He plays the record, takes the dog tags and leaves Angel to recall the details of how he murdered each of the people. He refuse to accept the truth. The last person that flashes before him is Epiphany. He runs off through the rain.

    He arrives at his own hotel room. A widower sits by his door, it is a man. The police are inside. Epiphany is dead, bleeding from the groin on his bed. The detective asks who she is, and why his dog tags are around her neck. Angel says that she is his daughter. The cop does not believe it. The other cops bring out his grandson from the joining room and tell him "You're gonna burn for this, Angel". He replies, "I know... In hell". The babies eyes glow orange as he points at Angel.

    Credit roll

    An elevator's doors close and it descends. Details of the descent are intercut by credits. Angel dressed in a smart suit is the passenger. It finally stops at the bottom, deep below. The trellis doors slide open. A heartbeat goes silent.

    The end.

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