Angel Heart is a 1987 mystery/horror film adapted from William Hjortsberg's novel Fallen Angel. The film stars Mickey Rourke as Harry Angel, a cynical private detective working in 1950's Lost Angeles who is given a case by a mysterious client played by Robert De Niro.
The story of Angel Heart begins as Harry Angel enters his office. He receives a phone call from an attorney named Winesap, who tells him about a potential client named Louis Cypher. Angel meets up with Cypher, who tells him about a man named Johnny Favorite (real name Liebling), a singer who disappeared twelve years prior. Cypher explains that he simply wants to know if Favorite is alive or dead. Angel agrees to check it out. Before he leaves, Cypher claims that he and Angel have met before, but Angel does not recognize him.
Angel goes to the hospital where Favorite supposedly disappeared. The nurse explains to him that Favorite was transferred to another hospital in 1943, but Angel suspsects otherwise. He learns that Favorite was taken care of by a man named Doctor Albert Fouler, who eventually reveals that Favorite was taken by two others, and he was bribed to create the impression that he was still in the hospital. Angel briefly leaves to get Fouler something to eat, locking him in his bedroom before he does so. After spending some time alone in a diner, Angel returns to Fouler's apartment to find him mysteriously shot through the eye.
The next day Angel tells Cypher about what happened to Fouler. As he is now a murder suspect, Angel wants to leave the case, but decides to continue when Cypher raises his fee.
A series of inquiries lead Angel to a woman named Margaret Krusmark, an old friend of Favorites. However, she insists that Favorite is dead, and refuses to co-operate with Angel. He finds another old friend of Favorite's, a musician named Toots Sweet, who attacks Angel but is eventually overpowered.
The next morning, Angel is woken by two police officers who inform him that Toots was killed, his penis literally severed and then shoved into his mouth. Angel also discovers that Margaret has been mysteriously killed, her heart having been cut out of her chest. Angel also manages to locate a young woman named Epiphany Proudfoot, who reveals that Favorite was her father.
Angel receives a message from Cypher to meet him in a local church. Angel explains that he is through with the case due to the unexplained murders that keep taking place. Upon returning to his hotel, Angel encounters Epiphany. They flirt briefly before having sexual intercourse. Angel starts to have a nightmare involving blood spreading throughout the room.
Angel Manages to track Margaret's father and tells him everything he knows. The man reveals that he and Margaret were responsible for taking Favorite from the hospital. He also claims that Favorite sold his soul to the Devil for fame and fortune. In an effort to deceive him, Favorite attempted a ritual of black magic. He kidnapped a young soldier returning from World War II, killed him, and ate his heart in the hopes of stealing his soul and thus tricking the Devil. Angel begins experiencing a series of unexplained flashbacks before finding the man to have been drowned in a vat of soup.
Angel reluctantly returns to Margaret's house. He searches the place and eventually discovers a sealed vase containing military dog tags which have the name "Harold Angel" printed on them. At this point Angel finally starts to realize, to his horror, that is actually favorite.
Louis Cypher suddenly arrives and reveals his true identity- he is in fact the Devil ("Louis Cypher" was a play on "Lucifer"), to whom Harry, or rather Johnny Favorite, owes his soul. It is also revealed that it was actually Favorite who was responsible for killing Fouler, Toots, Margaret, and her father (possibly under the influence of Lucifer). He quickly runs back to his hotel room to find Epiphany dead, the two police men believing him responsible. As the credits roll, they are intercut with shots of an elevator descending a large shaft, before it finally stops and a silhouette of Angel is visible inside, with the implication being that he is being taken into Hell.
Novel vs. film Edit
Angel Heart is generally faithful to the novel from which it was adapted, with the following major exceptions: the introduction of Epiphany Proudfoot's child which she claims was conceived during a voodoo ceremony, and much of the film occurs in New Orleans while the novel is set entirely within New York City.
- Mickey Rourke as Harry Angel
- Robert De Niro as Louis Cyphre
- Lisa Bonet as Epiphany Proudfoot
- Charlotte Rampling as Margaret Krusemark
- Stocker Fontelieu as Ethan Krusemark
- Brownie McGhee as Toots Sweet
- Michael Higgins as Dr. Albert Fowler
- Elizabeth Whitcraft as Connie
- Charles Gordone as Spider Simpson, bandleader
- Dann Florek as Herman Winesap
Angel Heart gained attention and controversy even before its release. Bonet, then 19, was previously known for her role on the family-oriented sitcom The Cosby Show, and at least ten seconds of her topless, extended, graphic sex scene with Rourke (then 35) while blood drips from the walls, had to be trimmed in order to secure the film an "R" rating on initial release in the USA, though later an uncut "X" rated version was released. In Australia the film was released uncut from first release.
Rotten Tomatoes counted 23 reviews with 78% of them being "fresh" or favorable; Average Rating: 7.3/10. Angel Heart broke even at the box office with its budget of $17 million.
Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half stars, "Angel Heart is a thriller and a horror movie, but most of all it's an exuberant exercise in style, in which Parker and his actors have fun taking it to the limit".
The film acted as the inspiration for the first entry in the Gabriel Knight computer game series, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers.