Saturday, February 21, 2009

Day Eighteen: Angel Heart (1987) - Rank 4/5


A little bit "Jacob's Ladder," a little bit "Serpent and the Rainbow" (though, interestingly enough, it came before both, so perhaps serving as inspiration for each), "Angel Heart" is a dark and enigmatic piece of neo film noir. This, I believe, was Adam's selection for our third "Film Noir-a-thon," and it certainly put a damper on the proceedings after the wine-induced, apoplectic laughing fits that accompanied "Dementia" (consult that entry here for a brief explanation). It kept us calmed until Lisa Bonet came on the scene. But that's a different story...

A young Mickey Rourke (detective Harry Angel), looking very much like a normal human being, is hired by a sinister businessman named Louis Cyphre (played by a not-so-normal looking Robert DeNiro - say his name fast enough and you'll guess his "mystery identity" which most viewers have pegged after five minutes). Angel's task is to find a man named Johnny Favourite who owes Cyphre a mysterious something. Angel's gig takes him down a shady road of voodoo, murder and nightmares to a very chilling climax. Lisa Bonet costars as a voodoo priestess in her career-killing role. Bill Cosby had a tougher time selling pudding pops to kiddies when one of his spokesgals looked like this:


Me? I'd buy them by the dozen. I could make vanilla vs. chocolate pudding pop jokes here, but I'm above inappropriate racial and sexual innuendo. Actually, no I'm not, but I am getting off task.

The reason that I compare the film to "Jacob's Ladder" and "Serpent and the Rainbow" is not because of great plot similarities (though there are a few likenesses). The main common factor in each is that they pit an average individual against a world that could very well exist that you or I know nothing about (nor care to acknowledge). In the process, the film builds a sense of dread that begins in the first five minutes after Angel's first meeting with Cyphre and it doesn't ease up until half an hour after completion. The choice of lighting and surreal imagery keeps the plot as unsettling as it does fresh, and I can't believe that studios green-lit such an ambitious mix of classic and modern genres. After looking at what the film grossed in theatres, I don't think the studios can believe it either. Admittedly, this is only the second film I've seen by writer/director Alan Parker (the first being Pink Floyd: The Wall). But based on what I've seen on those two films, he has a fantastic eye for visuals, and I definitely think I'll check out more selections from his repertoire.

Watch the Trailer

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