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Angel Heart (1987, Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro)



The Devil may have all the best tunes, but he doesn’t get the best lines in Alan Parker’s supernatural thriller, which stars Mickey Rourke as a hard-boiled detective working for a highly mysterious client (Robert De Niro). The film’s tagline boasted ‘It will scare you to your very soul’ and, under Parker’s taut direction, this blood-soaked movie is indeed frighteningly chilling.

Based upon William Hjortsberg’s novel Falling Angel and set in 1955, Rourke stars as Gotham private detective Harry Angel, hired by a mysterious foreign businessman, Louis Cyphre (De Niro), to track down Johnny Favorite, a once-famous Big Band singer who has reneged on an unspecified contract with Cyphre. Angel’s initial enquiries reveal that Favorite was injured during the Second World War and, although suffering from amnesia in a veterans’ hospital, he escaped with the aid of Ethan Krusemark (Stocker Fontelieu) and his daughter Margaret (Charlotte Rampling).

Angel sets off for New Orleans, where he pursues leads in both the jazz and voodoo underworlds, including a meeting with the daughter (Lisa Bonet) of a high priestess with whom Favorite once had an affair. As Angel’s investigation proceeds, it appears that he’s being followed by someone, who’s killing all of his contacts. When Angel finally deduces that Favorite has mysteriously swapped identities, he’s left with two vital questions: who has Johnny Favorite become and what was his debt to Louis Cyphre?

Robert De Niro is one of many fine actors to play the Devil in a movie, and his is arguably the most memorable performance. Where Al Pacino and Jack Nicholson (in The Devil’s Advocate and The Witches of Eastwick respectively) camp it up, De Niro provides a steely, underplayed menace.

production details
USA | 113 minutes | 1987

Director: Alan Parker
Writer: Alan Parker (based on a novel by William Hjortsberg)

Mickey Rourke as Harry Angel
Robert De Niro as Louis Cyphre
Lisa Bonet as Epiphany Proudfoot
Charlotte Rampling as Margaret Krusemark
Stocker Fontelieu as Ethan Krusemark
Brownie McGhee as Toots Sweet
Michael Higgins as Doctor Fowler
Elizabeth Whitcraft as Connie
Eliott Keener as Sterne
Charles Gordone as Spider Simpson
Dann Florek as Winesnap
Kathleen Wilhoite as Nurse
George Buck as Izzy
Judith Drake as Izzy’s Wife
Pruitt Taylor Vince as Det. Deimos
Dave Petitjean as Baptism Preacher
Rick Washburn as Cajun Heavy
Karen Davis as Voodoo Dancer