Even if it may be a specious work at its core, Angel Heart still proves a mightily absorbing mystery, a highly exotic telling of a small-time detective’s descent into hell, with Faustian theme, heavy bloodletting and pervasive grimness.
Based on William Hjortsberg’s novel Falling Angel, Alan Parker’s screenplay, set in 1955, has seedy Gotham gumshoe Mickey Rourke engaged by mysterious businessman Robert De Niro to locate a certain Johnny Favorite, a big band singer from the pre-war days who, De Niro says, failed to live up to the terms of a contract.
Rourke as Harry Angel, quickly discovers that Favorite, a war casualty and reportedly a vegetable, was removed years earlier from the nursing home where he was supposedly under care, and follows his leads to New Orleans, and particularly the jazz and voodoo elements within its black community.
Rourke is a commanding lead, putting everyone around him (except De Niro) on edge. Charlotte Rampling is in very briefly as an elegant fortune teller, while Lisa Bonet’s striking looks are rather undercut by her Valley Girl accent, not terribly convincing for a poor black girl from bayou country.
Controversial lovemaking scene between Rourke and Bonet becomes rather rough but, probably more to the point, involves torrents of blood leaking down on them from the ceiling, all of this being intercut with glimpses of voodoo rituals.