Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB
USA/Canada/United Kingdom, 1987. Carolco International N.V., Winkast Film Productions, Union. Screenplay by Alan Parker, based on the novel by William Hjortsberg. Cinematography by Michael Seresin. Produced by Elliott Kastner, Alan Marshall. Music by Trevor Jones. Production Design by Brian Morris. Costume Design by Aude Bronson-Howard. Film Editing by Gerry Hambling.
Private detective Mickey Rourke is approached by a wholly odd Robert De Niro, decked out in long tresses and creepy long nails, to find the whereabouts of a missing musician. Rourke tracks the man down to a hospital before following the trail to New Orleans, where the atmosphere of secret voodoo societies begins to get alarming when his investigations prompt men to come and convince him, quite violently, to leave the mystery alone and go back home. Trouble is, the more he is messed with, the more personal his quest becomes to solve the mystery.
Alan Parker directs with visual menace throughout this entire film, photographing everything within an inch of its life and really letting the gorgeous production design of Brian Morris (who would be nominated for an Academy Award nine years later for his work on Parker’s Evita) have its day in the sun. The performances are all strong, especially the highly charismatic Rourke who is so pleasurable to watch throughout the entire film, and backed up by wonderfully strange turns from Charlotte Rampling, Lisa Bonet (who got herself fired from The Cosby Show for her racy sex scenes here) and a deliciously menacing De Niro.
Unfortunately, the film is a genuine clunker: every time Rourke stumbles upon a clue the film goes through a long, drawn out process of recapping everything he’s learned up until that point, and in the end many of the strands don’t fit into a cohesive whole. This isn’t the wild ravings of Chandler’s The Big Sleep, this is amateur storytelling whose more obscure elements come off as unpolished and illogical rather than grandiosely bizarre.