Angel Heart 1987 Movie Scene Mickey Rourke as Harry Angel lighting a cigarette with a match

Angel Heart [1987]

Not only Angel Heart is one hell of a noir movie but it is also an occult movie. It has this thick and dark atmosphere that envelops you almost instantly and transports you to this miserable but very intriguing place. It was quite controversial in the eighties because of the sexual and scenes of graphic violence. However, by today’s standards, this is just an edgy thriller with a couple of nasty scenes. I have seen it several times and only recently really sat down and dedicated myself to it entirely. Now, I knew roughly what’s going to happen but this time I was able to early on get the full picture. And I have to tell you that this didn’t spoil anything.

For me, noir movies like Angel Heart are all about the atmosphere and world-building. You might call this escapism as that seems the most logical answer. You also might ask why would anyone want to escape to such a wretched, humid, and dark place? Well, that place is surely worse than your current location and you’re having a much better time watching this movie than anyone else in the movie. If that makes any sense, but I digress. Angel Heart is a movie about a private detective Harry Angel tasked with finding whether a certain John Liebling is still alive.

Mickey Rourke was simply born to play this role. Actually, it seemed like he’s not acting at all, playing this tormented detective who smokes and drinks constantly. His performance made this movie a cult classic and it gave it a lot of replay value. However, we must also talk about Lisa Bonet in her first role after The Cosby Show and what a role it was. Her seductive, wild, and almost disturbing performance rivals Mickey’s.

Of course, De Niro was the final piece of the puzzle. Director Alan Parker said that his performance was so eerie and unnerving that he avoided him during his scenes. The man is a fucking force of nature. So, as I so often say with these masterpieces, the stars aligned and everything simply worked.

Meet Harry Angel, a small-time private investigator working in New York. He works mostly insurance jobs or divorces but his latest client, Mr. Cyphre is offering a hefty sum of money if he were to locate one of his friends. Harry reluctantly agrees to take the job, sensing that something might be off here. And he was right as people soon start dying around him…

I love Alan Parker’s style of directing here as it reminds me of another classic noir masterpiece Le Cercle Rouge or The Red Circle. His attention to detail, motion, and storytelling immerses you into this story. However, I still think that the script could have been better. Especially when you consider the fact that Angel Heart is based on a novel.

I also loved the New Orleans scenes. They were quite refreshing and added another layer to the atmosphere. So, you’ve got mystery, murder, sex, and motherfucking occult, what more to want from a movie? Plus, there’s a restored 4K version of the movie that I suggest you check out. It features superior picture quality, especially when compared to the DVD version.

At the center of Angel Heart is the search for answers to what the fuck is going on with Johnny. We follow Harry as he slowly collects evidence and clues that seem to be only complicating things and not resolving them. Various characters that he meets give us a bit of insight into how life was in the fifties. And we see that life hasn’t changed that much. Well, apart from the racism that was quite horrific back then.

Do not be dismayed by a bit slower first half of the movie and just stick with it. If you’re looking for something similar, check out our selection of Noir Movies and Occult Movies. Finally, I would also recommend checking out the rest of Rourke’s eighties movies. Year of the Dragon, Barfly, and Johnny Handsome are all great and Nine 1/2 Weeks is a fucking classic. Of course, you can top that off with Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. Enjoy. 

Director: Alan Parker

Writers: William Hjortsberg, Alan Parker

Cast: Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro, Lisa Bonet, Charlotte Rampling, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Dann Florek

Fun Facts: In the novel, the entire story was set in New York City. In the movie, much of the action of the film occurs in New Orleans, Louisiana. This change was suggested to Alan Parker by William Hjortsberg, the writer of the novel.


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