A Prayer for the Dying is a disappointing thriller adapted from Jack Higgins’ novel. Release version has been disowned by director Mike Hodges, who joined the project on short notice, succeeding Franc Roddam before shooting commenced. Pic was originally planned to be filmed a decade earlier, with Edward Dmytryk to direct and Robert Mitchum to star.
Mickey Rourke, styled with red hair and Irish brogue, portrays Martin Fallon, an IRA hitman who sees the light and flees to London. He reluctantly agrees to carry out a mob hit for gangster Jack Meehan (Alan Bates), but the killing is witnessed by priest Father Da Costa (Bob Hoskins).
Fallon confesses the murder to the priest, who refuses to identify Fallon to the police. Film becomes rather conventional at this point, with Fallon outwitting the gangsters, police and IRA hitmen (Liam Neeson, Alison Doody) hot on his case, aided by the sympathetic, blind niece of the priest, Anna (Sammi Davis).
Dying emerges as a cold, unexciting affair, lightened up only by Bates’ funny overplaying of the villain. Rourke is convincing as the antihero and ably supported by Davis. As an IRA hit-lady, Doody looks more like a fashion model.