Sunday, February 22, 2009

my top 5 mickey rourke movies

i don't pay attention to the academy awards too much. i will read about the winners tomorrow in the paper but the ceremony and the supposed honor of nominations and winnings is rather bogus and has little to do with cinema either as a pleasure-giving experience or as an art form.

nevertheless, i am a long-time fan of actor mickey rourke. he's probably, in my humble opinion, one of the most talented actors in contemporary film and also one of the most stupid. he's done much to destroy his own career and yet he keeps working and keeps popping up in the most unexpected places. remember his role as marvin in sin city? a fantastic piece of work in a relatively goofy movie. and now rourke is up for an oscar portraying aging wrestler randy 'the ram' robinson in the wrestler. i can't comment on this movie because i've yet to see it. i'll wait till it is released on dvd.

below is my list, in no particular order, of my 5 favorite mickey rourke films. most of these movies are flawed but a couple are gems and in all of them rourke displays a charisma with a mega-watt talent.

9 1/2 weeks [1986]

i'm the first to admit to this being a film of utter artistic posing and pretension. if the direction is flat, unable to find that liminal space between pornography and art [which again is a judgment call - who can really say what might and might not be porn and/or art, anyway?], the photography is lush as it is counterpoised between the pleasures of a dominant as portrayed by rourke's character versus the desires of a submissive which is wonderfully hymned by kim basinger's role. i admit to finding the eroticism of the flick not so erotic if it weren't for rourke's kinked character. the most famous scene of basinger and rourke rutting before an open fridge door as they use food to heighten their sensuality is both gross and a turn-on. i could almost taste the cherries as they were dripped into basinger's mouth but man after the scene ended i most wanted to brush my teeth and take a shower.

a prayer for the dying [1987]

rourke portrays an ira hitman who accidentally blows up a bus full of schoolchildren. it is a story of a violent man whose overwhelming feelings of guilt lead him to reluctantly seek out the guidance of a catholic priest played by bob hoskins. rourke is penitent because of his actions but it is made so by the overt ministrations of hoskins who is trying to get rourke to repent under god and forego the politics of sectarian violence. if the politics of the movie are written in large crayon the subtleties of playing a reluctant believer by rourke are writ in a fine pelikan fountain pen. in other words, rourke is marvelous in this pic.

angel heart [1987]

a fantastic piece of noir horror rourke plays private dick harry angel who is tasked to find a man called johnny favorite. angel is hired to do this job by a man who calls himself louis cyphre. set in smoky, dense and lush new orleans angel discovers who cyphre, played with great relish by robert de niro, really is [louis cyphre = lucifer, get it?] and finds that he is one of the damned. the direction is solid and the photography is redolent of a late night in the french quarter. if the movie no longer terrifies audiences today the last scene with an elevator going straight down to hell might be seen as over the top metaphor, yet it works still to evoke the despair and horror found in the heart of rourke's character.

barfly [1987]

i've written about this flick before and i'm so-so about the life and work of charles bukowski and yet this is a solid piece of fiction. if rourke's chinaski doesn't capture quite the desperation found in bukowski's work there is nevertheless a kind of rapture within the grunge that rourke brings to the screen. barbet schroeder's direction is a bit stiff i think but the photography is gritty enough to evoke the neon life found within l.a.'s seedier watering holes. i saw this flick in the late '80s when i was developing an identity as a young, non-academic entering poetry. after watching this film i didn't want to be a poet like bukowski i wanted to be a poet like rourke's chinaski.

johnny handsome [1989]

this flick directed by walter hill is a misfire but provides a juicy role for rourke who parlays the psychic wounds of a deformed gangster into a robust expression of near redemption. rourke is the eponymous anti-hero who attempts to escape his violent past as he succumbs to reconstructive facial surgery that transforms his inner demons to match his newly remade good looks. yet, those demons persist as rourke tries to get revenge on those who had wronged him. the movie plays like a bad jim thompson novel but is redeemed by the presence of rourke. this is the last of his good films before the actor decided to ditch acting altogether and become a professional boxer.


i've been writing this piece off and on all day and only finished it after i watched the academy awards. i still think the oscars are a cod's game but got sucked into it as we turned the tv on after dinner. so sue me. i am a film geek. i did see rourke get passed over for the best acting award in favor of sean penn's role as harvey milk. nevertheless, i hope that rourke keeps his shit together and gets more work where he can really show off his chops.


At 7:55 PM, Blogger Geof Huth said...

Hmm, Richard, I didn't know there was another longtime fan of Mickey Rourke. I thought I was alone.

"9 1/2 Weeks" is a kind of film that couldn't be made now: amazingly tender (not between Rourke and that Oscar-winner but between her and the old artist) yet cruelly sexual as well. Flashy, stylish, emptiness about emptiness. All good.

"Angel Heart." A great film. My favorite Rourke film. Great direction by the guy who directed "The Wall" (one of my favorite directors, and I can't think of his name). Spooky in a lingering way, and Rourke was made for it.

"Barfly." Oh, Rourke was grungy, which was good, but I've no interest in Bukowski, unfortunately, not enough enough to keep me going through this film.

What? You left off "Heaven's Gate"? (Okay, not a big role for Rourke.)

Strangely, Mickey Rourke was born here, in Schenectady, New York. I'm not sure where, but either on the same block I'm living on or about a half a mile from here.

My daughter was pulling for him to win as if her life depended on it. She thought he was great in "The Wrestler" (which I haven't seen).

Good, at least, that he's been given a chance for redemption. But I think he films tell us where that will lead him.


At 10:18 PM, Blogger richard lopez said...

ANGEL HEART is also my favorite rourke film. there are few others that i left off the list that i think are good rourke vehicles but this list is my essential rourke filmography.

was thinking of doing a list of those gawdawful movies rourke spewed out to pay the rent, like HARLEY DAVIDSON AND THE MARLBORO MAN co-staring don johnson. that is an unbearable mess of a flick.

only seen bits of HEAVEN'S GATE so can't comment on it. perhaps i should give it a go again but i remember years and years ago it was on tv and i tried sitting thru it and couldn't muster the strength.

ah THE WALL. love the album and was obsessed, at least during the duration of my adolescence, of the film. lost my innocence there with the movie and can't hardly watch it now, but i haven't lost my love of pink floyd's work, especially the guitar of david gilmour.


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