Dark and brooding with an authentic 1950s milieu, ANGEL HEART is a solid horror film that holds up as a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of making a deal with the devil.
Brooklyn private eye Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) is tasked with an unusual case. Hired by the mysterious Louis Cyphre (Robert DeNiro), his job is to locate a famous singer named Johnny Favorite who owes Cyphre a debt. Suffering from shell shock, Johnny went missing 12 years ago after he got back from the war and hasn’t been seen since.
As Harry investigates, he learns strange things about Johnny and his friends. It seems they dabbled in Voodoo as well as other unsavory activities. When people start turning up dead, Harry begins to reconsider whether this case is worth the risk, but soon his is too far down the rabbit hole and things take an unexpected turn when he finally catches up with Johnny.
Directed with an assured hand by Alan Parker, the film also sports an excellent cast with Rourke working at the top of his game. Known for his attention to detail, the production design is exceptional and really captures the 1950s of both New York City and New Orleans.
With a Philip Marlowe-esque plot, the film features enough twists and turns to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. It also has a palpable sense of dread and the body count is high and bloody, so much so that the film almost received an “X” rating. This was bolstered by an infamous sex scene between Rourke and Lisa Bonet.
Lisa Bonet caught a lot of flack for her role in this film because at the time she was on “The Cosby Show.” Bill Cosby was publicly upset over her decision to portray such a sexualized character especially given the TV show’s wholesomeness.
It’s a shame that the controversy harmed Bonet’s career, as she’s quite good in the film and could have gone on to bigger projects. Ironically, if the film had come out more recently, she would have been perceived as brave and empowered. But the late 1980s were rather puritanical when it came to sex (but not violence) and Bonet was a casualty of that.
Regardless of what you think about the controversy, ANGEL HEART is a quality adult horror movie and very much in line with the new renaissance of story and character driven horror that’s thankfully been gracing the screens in the last few years. I would be surprised if fans of contemporary horror movies would not embrace this film even though it is almost three decades old.