Thursday, October 8, 2009

Film Review: ANGEL HEART (1987, Alan Parker)

Stars: 4.7 of 5.
Running Time: 113 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Mickey Rourke, Robert de Niro, Lisa Bonet, Charlotte Rampling. Music by Trevor Jones (EXCALIBUR, LABYRINTH, RUNAWAY TRAIN). Cinematography by Michael Seresin.
Tag-line: "It will scare you to your very soul."
Best one-liner: "I gotta thing about chickens."

ANGEL HEART is a masterful 80's neo-noir (with a tinge of otherworldly horror) from English filmmaker Alan Parker (PINK FLOYD'S THE WALL, FAME, MIDNIGHT EXPRESS). Parker tackles the supernatural like the best of Kubrick and Lynch, rarely presenting it tangibly, and instead opting to let you simply feel the timbre of its ominous presence.

The forceful imagery of cinematographer Michael Seresin (ANGELA'S ASHES, FOXES) and production designer Brian Morris (THE HUNGER, the first PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN) goes a long way in maintaining this exquisite atmosphere, and these impressions (like an imposing tenement with one, red-lit window or a shadowy, malfunctioning steel fan squeaking and scraping in the night) remain ingrained in your mind long after the picture has finished. The key performances are astoundingly good, with Mickey Rourke delivering probably his second best performance of the 80's (after RUMBLE FISH) as a chicken-phobic private eye who finds his entire world crumbling around him.

Robert de Niro is his mysterious, long-fingernailed client who manages to transform the act of eating a hard-boiled egg into meditation on existential dread.

Charlotte Rampling is a world-weary Southern gentlewoman who has more than dabbled in the black arts, and Lisa Bonet's bayou-dwelling voodoo priestess may just figure into the mystery as well. Almost playfully macabre, ANGEL HEART is littered with puns, allusions, and utter ridiculousness, from Rourke's Coney Island 'nose shield'

to the droll callousness of lighting a match off a dead man's shoe. But this thing is brutal, too: it's Cajuns threatening to have their dogs bite your face off, it's being beaten and thrown into a wheelbarrow of crawdads, it's scalding and slicing and being asphyxiated by your own (severed) balls. It all builds to a surprising coda, that, even if you see it coming, is simultaneously mind-numbing and masochistically satisfying. Life's just one creaky, rusty elevator ride, and it only ends once.

-Sean Gill

2009 Halloween Countdown

31. PROM NIGHT (1980, Paul Lynch)
30. PHENOMENA (1985, Dario Argento)
29. HOUSE OF WAX (1953, André de Toth)
28. SILENT RAGE (1982, Michael Miller)
27. BASKET CASE (1982, Frank Henenlotter)
26. THE DEADLY SPAWN (1983, Douglas McKeown)
25. PELTS (2006, Dario Argento)
24. ANGEL HEART (1987, Alan Parker)


GuyR said...

Thanks! Great review for one of my favorite movies (along with Death Wish 3).

Sean Gill said...

Thanks, man! And indeed those two films are intertwined and typified by their protagonists' love (Bronson: "Chicken's good...I like chicken") or hatred (Rourke: "I gotta thing about chickens.") for chickens.