Monday, August 27, 2012

Horror and Mystery perfectly blended - Angel Heart

Angel Heart (1987)
Cast: Mickey Rourke, Robert de Niro, Lisa Bonet
Director: Alan Parker
It’s exciting to see a movie with mystery and suspense right from the beginning to end of end credits. Fight Club, Seven and Mulholland drive are few examples to mention. It is even more exciting when a favorite actor has acted in it even if it is a small role. Angel Heart is one such, a relatively unknown and underrated cult movie. The film has Mickey Rourke in the lead role and my favorite star Robert de Niro in special appearance, the reason why I took special interest to watch it (I am a diehard fan of de Niro!!). 

Angel Heart is a perfect blend of mystery, horror and detective genre. The plot is set few years after the end of World War II, in the 1950s in which Harold ‘Harry’ Angel (Mickey Rourke) is a private detective from Brooklyn. He is hired by a wealthy but quite mysterious man Louis (de Niro) to find a singer named Johnny Favorite whether he is dead or alive. Throughout the course of his investigation, things get more and more bizarre when Harry unfolds something crucial and there is another knot waiting for him to tie around his neck, and get him into mess as if he is going to be transported to another world which has no return path.

Adapting the novel Fallen Angels, director Alan Parker has done a meticulous job of setting the extremely dark and scary environment full of secrets. It is a horror movie without any cheap scares. But the real scare elements are the visual and the music score. The visual presentation is distinctive and well matching to the film’s environment. The soundtrack scored by Trevor Jones is breathtaking, eerie and builds tension. The script is good with some really catchy dialogues. These aspects are well synchronized and leave the audience anticipating what may be an unusual and unexpected twisted ending.

Robert de Niro in Angel Heart
The film has a powerful acting. Rourke takes the lead as a chain smoking, least bothered private detective, giving a tremendous acting showing us the horror through his eyes. Initially he is reluctant to accept the job, but eventually agrees when Louis is ready to a lucrative sum. The ‘special appearance’ by de Niro as Louis is much special that, with only 10 to 15 minutes of screen presence out of 112 minutes duration, de Niro had given a stunning acting. This is one of his best in the line of Taxi Driver, The Godfather II, though not much popular among many. For those who have seen him as a gangster all these years in most of his movies, you people can see him in a completely different character, a role that he has done neither before nor after this film. When there is a slight lag in the screenplay, the gap is superbly filled by de Niro and Rourke’s sparkling acting. Rest of the cast also does their part quiet satisfactorily, mainly Lisa Bonet as the voodoo girl and Harry’s lover Epiphany, and Charlotte Rampling as Margaret, a fortune teller.  

I wonder how movies like this are underrated despite having near perfection in almost every aspect. Those who like the above mentioned genre and the fans of de Niro who haven’t seen it yet, will surely enjoy this thrill ride. Please do watch fully till the end credits are over.

My Rating: 8.8/10

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Jackie Chan film with Less Action - Shinjuku Incident

Shinjuku Incident (2009) - Hong Kong
Cast: Jackie Chan, Daniel Wu
Direction: Derek Yee
Genre: Drama, Crime, gangster

Jackie Chan, the action king is the favorite star of most action freaks. He has attracted the kids and teens by the funny actions he does in his films. It’s rare if action freaks don’t like him. Likewise it is rarer if we see him deviating from his usual and typecast action movies. Isn’t it? Yes. After acting in numerous action films and having achieved an unbreakable action hero image, Chan turned his focus towards drama with powerful story and least action. 


 The plot follows the rise and fall of Chinese immigrant workers into gangsters amidst the native Japanese clans. Chan plays Zhao aka Stealhead, an illegal immigrant from a Chinese village among many others, and does odd jobs for living. He wants to get legal status in Japan and protect the fellow immigrants from native gangsters’ assault and law enforces. After a couple of conflicts with native Yakuzas and Thai gangsters, he rises to prominence as the boss of his fellow immigrants.

Shinjuku Incident is a heavy drama with least action. The plot is dark and set in an amazing manner, with Chan in a completely different and ‘never seen before’ performance. He delivers a stand out, laudable performance and steals the show. I must say that this is the best film of Chan’s career. It was produced by Chan himself. I wondered why Chan hasn’t acted in movies like this before. Also this is the most violent of all his movies, with some brutal killings and bloodshed. But it suits very well to the tone of the film. Added to Chan, the supporting cast also gave more than average performance. Chan’s ex lover and his present lover, inspector Kitano, gang leader Eguchi, and fellow immigrant Jie did their roles above the mark. The film tells a moral truth that newly found power and money makes people tend to become corrupt, sinister, and aggressive and lose their control. Trusts, love, deceit, defeat, guilt, regret, all of these are in Shinjuku. The film has more dialogues and emotional expressions rather than fist fights, martial arts and chases. There are of course fights in the movie of course, but not Chan’s usual comical type. 

Chan’s and hardcore action fans may get disappointed if they expect much action like his earlier movies Police Story, First Strike, etc. Those who are very much fond of dramas, this is highly recommended. Please do watch the Hong Kong version. The English dubbing is not so good.

My rating: 8.3/10