Angel Heart (1987)

Writer & Director: Alan Parker
Cinematographer: Michael Seresin
Composer: Trevor Jones
Cast: Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro, Lisa Bonet, Charlotte Rampling.

I am staying with friends and the other night we decided to watch a movie and since I am a guest I let the host decide what we should watch. We settled on this supernatural drama/horror because of the quite stellar cast, the pedigree of the respected director, and the fact that it was a film we had heard about in spite of the fact that it is nearly 30 years old (and we were a little young to see it when it originally came out). I was definitely not prepared with how cheesy and just plain awful it would be!

When a director has this much creative control and also is the screenwriter of the film, there is really nowhere else to point fingers. Alan Parker is completely to blame for this mess of a film, and it really is just terrible. I guess the only thing this film is good for is to make fun of it and show that you can really have everything going for you and still mess it up to the point of a film having absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

The story is ridiculous, and the more I think about it the more it just sounds made up! In 1955 Harry Angel is a private detective who is hired by a mysterious man named Louis Cyphre (sound it out and look at the detective’s last name… get it? har har) to investigate the whereabouts of a man named John “Johnny Favorite” Liebling. Pretty much everyone Angel interacts with while trying to find Liebling turns up dead, scared yet? No? Me neither.

Mickey Rourke, before he messed up his face with boxing, is clearly trying to prove something in the role of Harry Angel, but aside from smug and handsome, he doesn’t have the slightest idea what to do or how to sell the worst dialogue ever. Here is an example interaction that has nothing to do with anything and was so cheesy I was laughing for a good minute straight:

Margaret: Tea? Do you want some tea?
Harry: Oh yes, thank you.
Margaret: Darjeeling, jasmine, or oolong?
Harry: Oolong.
Margaret: Not many people like oolong.

See what I mean? A scene in which tea is discussed takes up almost two minutes of the film. What was that? And I am not even going to mention the cartoonish and Halloween-y character that Robert De Niro plays, since it looks like he decided not to give a single shit about this film. If he didn’t care, why should we?

The time setting allows the film also to tread on some very troubling waters. The film, as stated above, takes place in the 50’s and a good portion of the film is set in Louisiana, so the film gets to depict a problematic time in race relations in the US, but does absolutely nothing of interest with it aside from exploiting these scenes and furthering stereotypes. All black characters in the film are either jazz musicians, ultra religious and charismatic, or voodoo practicing shamans interacting with black magic while literally bathing in the blood of chickens.

I hate to beat a dead horse with this blog, but the way women are treated in the film is so disgusting that one must wonder what these filmmakers must think of women aside from them just being props to play with and bodies to exploit. There are only three speaking female parts in the entire film under the age of 50. The first is a blonde journalist who provides her lines while topless, the second is Charlotte Rampling playing Margaret, a privileged white girl dabbling in the black arts who remains clothed until her death when a single breast is shown exposed for no reason except: boobs. The worst role, though, befalls a very young Lisa Bonet playing the even younger 17 year old Epiphany Proudfoot. She is mostly naked in all of her scenes, or might as well be, and basically gets to be the gorgeous black girl that is seduced by the much much older protagonist. Her scenes involve violence, racism, and punishment. Such fun, right?

The more I think of this film, the more it pisses me off. There is no excuse for the travesty that was filmed and for those making it. I am tired of hearing the excuse that we cannot hold older films up to certain standards, because 1987 was not that long ago and it really was an unnecessary film.

I hated it. A lot. So much. Yuck.


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