Saturday, July 9, 2011

Movie Review: Angel Heart

 Angel Heart is probably one of the most under-rated and least noticed films of its genre, a gem worthy of more praise that it has received.  It is the 1950's, and Harvey Angel (Mickey Rourke) is a detective who has been hired by a lawyer, Louis Cypher (played by Robert DiNero and the character-name is the only cheesey thing in this entire film) to track down a man who owes him something, a man names Johnny Favourite.  Favourite was a musician with an ugly private-life.  He was drafted into World War II, and suffered some form of head-tramua that caused him to lose his memory.  Cypher believes that the hospital he was kept in falsified his records, and Favourite has vanished, possibly with no memory of his actual identity or using the memory-loss as an excuse to avoid his creditor.  Cypher wants Angel to track down this man, or discover the truth about what ultimately happened to him.
 The clues lead Angel deeper and deeper into Favourties sordid life prior to the war.  Favourite was connected to a Satanic Cult in New York, and those connection lead to a Voodoo Cult in Lousiana.  As Angel proceeds from one contact to the next, each of these contacts is killed in a horrible and mysterious fashion, and Angel fear being blamed for the murders.  Cypher offers him more money to continue with the search, which leads him to Favourites daughter, Epiphany Proudfoot (Lisa Bonet).  Proudfoot and her mother are both Voodoo Priestesses, connected to both the Louisiana underworld and the High Society.  Angel, struggling to comprehend the depravity that Favourite indulged in, becomes smitten with Proudfoot.

 Through her, the trail to Favourite becomes even bloodier, and Angel is confronted with the truth.

 Angel Heart is a lushly produced film, painstakingly recreated both New York and the Louisiana bayou of the 1950's.  The film draws in the viewer as they follow Angel through the search for Favourite, the story unfolding for both the protagonist and the viewer at the same time.  The film is intensely erotic, mysterious, and horrific, supported by excellent performances by all involved.  The twist at the end is kept hidden until the last possible moment, and even then has to be confirmed to be believed. 

 Angel Heart in its original version has an "X" rating for a very explicit sex-scene between Rourke and Bonet.  A few seconds of this scene were trimmed off in the "R" rated version.  This scene was controversial largely due to Bonet's fame as a member of the Huxtable family in The Cosby Show, which presents a significantly more wholesome image of Bonet than is revealed in Angel Heart.

 This is an wonderful Faustian tale, supported by it production quality and strong cast.  If you haven't seen this movie, put it on your watch list as soon as possible.


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