Hired by a law firm representing the sinister Louis Cyphre, private investigator Harry Angel goes in search of missing WWII veteran Johnny Favourite, amongst the sweaty slums of New Orleans. But the further he delves into the case the more the evidence makes no sense at all.
Trust Alan Parker, a master with the stippled strokes and dappled sunbeams of 80s ad-atmospherics, to coat this overwrought but memorable noir-horror nonsense in super-soupy layers of Southern Gothic window-dressing. The film oozes along with a superficial sense of unease, leaden with overcooked metaphors: from hoodoo chicken heads to the hollow clang of descending elevators. Blood is everywhere. The film looks and feels unwell.
Parker adapted William Hjortsberg’s novel Falling Angel (the same writer who’d helped conceive the dark fantasy of Legend with Parker’s compatriot Ridley Scott) himself and was, obviously, more tickled by the visual opportunities than any great strengths of the story. Yet, he has cast well. When you need a boozy, sleazy, loose-hinged gumshoe (think Sam Spade without the self-control) whom else to call upon than the leathery, anti-charm of Mickey Rourke? He slumps, heavy-cast, through the twisty mechanics of the plot, most of which are pretty inexplicable, bodies piling up in his wake. What, for instance, does petit Lisa Bonnet see in this lascivious lump of an anti-hero? But soon enough they are doing the carnal dance while coated in blood and viscera (it’s that kind of film). And Robert De Niro, while hardly busting a gut, still has the look of a thousand secrets lurking behind his dead eyes.
The director was never going to win any points for subtlety, beyond even its sticky style, the script rests on a increasing number of really stupid fillips of wordplay – if Harry Angel had been any better at the Sunday cryptic crossword he would have saved himself a whole lot of heartache. Or, at least, got to the nub of things a bit quicker. He does however make it compelling, and at the big twist, he has played a confident enough game of murky hoodwinking, like Agatha Christie overdosing on Tequila and downers.
A diabolical treat with Rourke and De Niro in fine form.