This is an intriguing, unusual, beautifully directed, highly atmospheric film that successfully crosses any number of genre: film noir, thriller, mystery, and horror. The plot is simple. In the mid nineteen fifties, a mysterious and slightly sinister business man, Louis Cypher (Robert De Niro), hires Brooklyn gumshoe, Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke), for a missing person case. Angel's investigation, for which he is being paid a princely sum for the time, takes him from Harlem to New Orleans, as he looks for a former crooner named Johnny Favorite, who sometime during the early nineteen forties apparently welched on a business deal with Louis Cypher and hasn't been heard from since.
What happens when Angel gets to New Orleans will be infused with voodoo rites, ritual murders and taboo sex. The Big Easy is hardly that for our erstwhile detective, as he becomes susceptible to a series of initially puzzling flashbacks. Moreover, it seems that everyone with whom he meets, who had a connection to our missing crooner, ends up being savagely murdered. When he meets with a tarot card reader (Charlotte Rampling), it is just the beginning of the end for our increasingly disheveled gumshoe. His introduction to the gorgeous Epiphany (Lisa Bonet), a seventeen year old voodoo queen, later leads to a coupling that is played with singularly wild abandon. Both of these women have a connection to our mysterious missing person, Johnny Favorite, who, it turns out, may have given the Devil a run for his money in the evil department.
Robert De Niro is sensational in the highly stylized, role of Louis Cypher. He imbues the role with just the right amount of sardonic humor and restrained menace so as to make the character memorable. De Niro leaves an indelible imprint on every scene in which he is in. Mickey Rourke, who is in nearly every scene in this film, shows that he has the ability to carry a movie, as he is simply terrific as the private detective who is slowly unraveling. As the film progresses, the toll that the investigation is taking on the tormented Angel is evident on his face. Angst ridden, bleary eyed, and disheveled, Angel is definitely involved in the biggest case of his life. As he gets closer to the truth of what happened to Johnny Favorite, the more his life seems to be spinning out of control. Rourke manages to convey all this, no easy task. The supporting cast is uniformly excellent and adds to the flavor of this delicious gumbo of a film, which is reminiscent of Goethe's Faust. Undoubtedly, this film is one of Alan Parker's best directorial efforts. Bravo!