The Test of Time: Angel Heart (1987)

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

We all have certain movies we love. Movies we respect without question because of either tradition, childhood love, or because they’ve always been classics. However, as time keeps ticking, do those classics still hold up? Do they remain must see? So…the point of this column is to determine how a film holds up for a modern horror audience, to see if it stands the Test of Time.

Director: Alan Parker
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Lisa Bonet, and Robert De Niro

The mystery of magic and the occult returns to theaters once again with DOCTOR STRANGE. It’s a subject that never dominates for long, appearing and disappearing as fast as a magician can say “ta-da” (that’s lame, sorry). While this week’s selection doesn’t involve magic, it does have a shit ton of the occult and a whole lotta devilish love. But does it stand up against the Test of Time?

Under the examination: ANGEL HEART.

"Relax, it's not like you're making a pact with the devil."

THE STORY: New York City, 1955: Private Dick Harry Angel (Rourke) is hired by a man named Louis Cyphre (De Niro) to track down a popular, but long missing singer named Johnny Favorite so he can keep his accounts clean. Quickly, things don’t go as planned as Angel encounters false identities, murder, and black magic. This leads him to New Orleans where things really get strange after encountering very hot voodoo lady Epiphany Proudfoot (Lisa Bonet) and a string of mysterious and vague characters, most who end up dead after talking to Angel. Can he find Johnny Favorite before he ends up suspect number one or dead himself?

Bad shaving tips, by Mickey Rourke. 

WHAT STILL HOLDS UP: I’m a sucker for a good private eye story, one that pulls our reluctant hero into a world he doesn’t want any part of but continues on to solve the case. Of course, that’s the plot to all detective movies, but not many of them get it right.


It oozes the noir world of the gumshoe who must uncover the truth. Even better comes from seeing just how great Mickey Rourke was. He fits perfectly as a 1950s private eye, always looking beaten down, tough but gentle, cheap but dependable, shady but with his own sense of ethics. Same goes for De Niro. No surprise, obviously, with another solid performance, but he’s effectively creepy here (director Alan Parker claimed he found De Niro too scary for him and stayed away) as a man of mystery (and long, perfect fingernails). And while no one today will complain or find it shocking about seeing Lisa Bonet all sexed up and nude, I can only imagine what COSBY SHOW fans thought when young Denise Huxtable went all voodoo lady with a kink for cutting up chickens.

Never has an egg been less appetizing.

Directed and scripted by Parker (who made classics like MISSISSIPPI BURNING, MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, and PINK FLOYD’S THE WALL), ANGEL HEART has plenty of style and tension. It feels and plays like an authentic 1950s flick without trying to appeal to the stylings of 1987. Think about it. Even BLADE RUNNER or ALIEN resemble the decades they where filmed during. Not ANGEL HEART. That’s not much of a surprise considering Parker came back the next year with the excellent MISSISSIPPI BURNING (if you’ve never seen it, do it).

WHAT BLOWS NOW: At two hours, ANGEL HEART runs maybe 20 minutes too long as it would have been nice to get to the point more quickly. At the same time, like all detective movies, the names all start to run together: Toots Sweet, Johnny Favorite, Margaret Krusemark, Winesap, Fowler. Though I dig the ending (no spoils), when you’ve seen the movie once, the impact vanishes and things don’t quite fit together like they do in something like THE SIXTH SENSE.


THE VERDICT: Fans of noir and private dick films will love something like ANGEL HEART, and I think it still has something for everyone with horror, romance, good and evil, and mystery all rolled together. Not only do we get Rourke and DeNiro at the top of their game, but ANGEL HEART entertains with a solid story, the voodoo, and the general weirdness of it all. It might not be the best detective story ever made, however, it’s a damn fine one.



"Whatever you do, don't change that face."

Source: Arrow in the Head

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