It would be wrong to say that "Angel Heart" is a forgotten film. Yet it is not often that one reads or hears of anyone recommending it compared to "The Exorcist", "The Omen", or "The Sixth Sense". It's a shame, because "Angel Heart" can justifiably sit alongside those films in terms of tension, mood, intrigue, and shock value.
Mickey Rourke stars as gumshoe Harry Angel hired by Robert De Niro to track down the big band singer Johnny Favourite. While this appears to be nothing more than a missing persons case, Rourke soon finds himself sucked into a trail of dead leads. His instinct is to get out before he becomes the next victim, but the mysterious De Niro proves to be very persuasive.
Set in 1955, this is a movie dominated by an unrelenting mood of doom. The opening Harlem locations carry with them a powerful aura of decay and faded grandeur. Director Alan Parker on purpose sucks the colour from every shot, creating a bleak but utterly absorbing backdrop against which Rourke's destiny is played.
His investigations take him down to the haunting New Orleans where the stench of death is always right behind him. It is here where the film's most controversial scenes are played out and the shocks gather pace, but Parker is careful not to resort to easy tactics. The movie maintains intrigue at every turn and Rourke is spellbinding.
Robert De Niro, Charlotte Rampling, and the assembled cast are all excellent. But this is Mickey Rourke's movie, and he puts in a mesmerising performance. It's a desperate shame that he subsequently descended into so many poor films. This remains his moment of triumph, and if you haven't seen it, you're in for a treat.
Intrigued? Get hold of the stunning "Angel Heart" DVD.