The Good, The Bad & the Badass: Mickey Rourke

Last week, we took a look at the career of the late, great Mike Nichols. This week, we turn our gaze to an actor who's hard his share of ups and downs, but it still capable of great work when the opportunity presents itself.

Mickey Rourke
mickey rourke johnny handsome

After a low-key couple of years, Mickey Rourke has found himself back in the news, although certainly not for any of his recent big-screen work. With the exception of SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR, all of Rourke's recent output has gone straight to VOD or disc. The reason for Rourke's sudden notoriety is due to his return to boxing, at the ripe old age of 62, where he knocked out an opponent more than thirty years his junior. While his victory has been largely deemed somewhat suspicious, it's worth remembering that when he gives it his all, Rourke is a very powerful performer, and one who hasn't always gotten his due.

mickey rourke kim basinger 9 1/2 weeks

Clearly the 1980's was the best decade for Rourke. In his prime, Rourke was seen as the logical successor to Robert De Niro or Al Pacino, but either through his own unconventional reaction to fame or his oddball choice of films, super stardom never arrived. In his forties, Rourke had a brief sojourn as a boxer, which wreaked havoc on his once-considerable good looks (plastic surgery was also a likely culprit). The nineties were pretty bad for Rourke professionally, with him taking on crap parts the the baddie in the Jean-Claude Van Damme/Dennis Rodman vehicle DOUBLE TEAM.

mickey rourke the wrestler

Luckily, the 2000's saw a dramatic uptick in his fortunes, with him first popping up in movies with pals Sylvester Stallone (GET CARTER) and Sean Penn (THE PLEDGE). Within a few years, Rourke was getting better parts, in movies like SIN CITY or DOMINO, and once he played Randy “The Ram” in Darren Aronofsky's THE WRESTLER, Rourke was back. His work since has been hit and miss at best, although there's little doubt in my mind that with the right part, Rourke can be as good as ever.

His Best Film
mickey rourke robert de niro angel heart

For me, Rourke's best film is Alan Parker's neo-noir/horror hybrid ANGEL HEART - a spooky movie set in 1950's New Orleans with Rourke as a seedy private eye working for an enigmatic figure (Robert De Niro) who just might be Satan himself. It was infamous in its day for the kinky sex scenes with COSBY SHOW actress Lisa Bonet, but ANGEL HEART is one hell of a movie. Rourke has never been better, and it has a creepy denouement that will stick in your head for weeks after. A bit of trivia – De Niro once said that he patterned his performance on Martin Scorsese. By the way, whatever happened to Alan Parker?

His Most Underrated Film
mickey rourke arianne year of the dragon

There are so many of Rourke's movies that are under-appreciated, from the dead-sexy 9 1/2 WEEKS, the amazing POPE OF GREENWICH VILLAGE, and the cool Walter Hill actioner JOHNNY HANDSOME. One I'm especially fond of is YEAR OF THE DRAGON. Directed by Michael Cimino, DRAGON is a strong film that probably would have met with more acclaim had Cimino's previous film not been the studio-wrecking HEAVEN'S GATE (in which Rourke played a small part). YEAR OF THE DRAGON is a strong, violent, operatic crime actioner, with Rourke memorable as an enigmatic and often boldly unlikable hero, while John Lone brings a surprising level of humanity to his antagonistic part. Also, the Chinese restaurant shootout is amazing. More trivia, despite being set in NYC, the entire movie was shot on a huge sound-stage in London. Apparently even Stanley Kubrick, who lived in NYC for the first half of his life, was convinced it had been shot on location.


His Most Overrated Film
mickey rourke iron man 2

This is a tough one, as Rourke's good movies tend to be underrated rather than over. He's never really been on the receiving end of massive acclaim outside of THE WRESTLER, which certainly deserved it. One role that you could call overrated it his role as Ivan Vanko in IRON MAN 2. Rourke has repeatedly expressed resentment at Marvel for cutting his part down to nothing, but despite this, he still has loads of screen time, and he never really makes much of an impression. That said, I don't know how much of the blame belongs on Rourke's shoulders. For the record, most Marvel fans didn't care for him in it, but mainstream critics seemed to think he was fine, which is somewhat unusual for Rourke, who's often a critical whipping boy.

His Most Memorable Scene

Arguably the part that put Rourke on the map was his memorable bit as “the arsonist” in BODY HEAT. Rourke only has two scenes, but holy cow he makes the most of them, with him being introduced working on a fuse while listening to Bob Seger, and memorably chewing out William Hurt with Lawrence Kasdan's memorably hard-boiled dialogue. I'd love to see Rourke do a cool small part like this again and knock everyone's socks off.

His Top Five Films






Up Next

Mickey Rourke's got a few movies coming up, and cruising the IMDB, his movie ASHBY sounds promising, with him playing a terminally ill ex-CIA agent opposite rising stars Nat Wolfe and Emma Roberts. Hopefully it's a good flick.

Source: JoBlo.com



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