9 1/2 Weeks **** 1986


The quote seems absent from the internet, so corrections are welcome, Gore Vidal once suggested that ‘a man finds it impossible to recommend something to another man on the grounds that it gave him an erection’. He might as well have been talking about Adrian Lyne’s erotic epic 9 ½ Weeks, which was a box office flop in the US back in the day, and was derided by critics who were keen for everyone to know that such crude exhibitionism didn’t turn them on. The death of screenwriter Patricia Louisianna Knop in August 2019 is a good time to reassess the virtues; Nine ½ Weeks was co-written with her husband and producer Zalman King, and with double Oscar-winner Sarah Kernochan, and adapts a slim book published in 1978 by Ingebord Day. There’s a lot more going on here than in 50 Shades, but it’s essentially a story of a woman Elizabeth (Kim Basinger) who is attracted and then repelled by a sexually manipulative man John (Mickey Rourke). Lushly photographed, and with a busy soundtrack featuring Bryan Ferry and Joe Cocker, there’s plenty of surface pleasures, but there’s also unexpected depth in the views of Elizabeth’s work in the art world and her relationship with an older artist. There’s also an early appearance from Christine Baranski, and it’s not surprising to learn that Lyne’s film became a secret success on home video. Lyne himself delved deeper into sexual obsession with Indecent Proposal and Lolita, but his 1986 film is due a re-appraisal; it’s got a fierce female perspective and dares to look at male abuse in an unflinching way; John’s pathetic begging at the end reveals how Elizabeth always held the power in their relationship. A sequel, despite being written by the fitness coach at Celtic Football Club, failed to generate the same heat in 1997.



Rumble Fish 1983 ***


‘What is this, another glorious battle for the kingdom?’ ; Mickey Rourke’s performance as the Motorcycle Boy is just one of the attractions of Francis Ford Coppola’s teen movie for adults, adapted from the book by SE Hinton. Rusty James (Matt Dillon) is a disaffected youth, caught up in gang culture, frustrated with his boozing father (Dennis Hopper) and living in the shadow of his brother (Rourke). Unlike Coppola’s version of Hinton’s The Outsiders, swathed in golden light and nostalgia, Rumble Fish is harsh, tough and uses black and white photography and a percussive soundtrack to suggest the barren landscapes of teenage rebellion. Nicholas Cage, Diana Lane and Laurence Fishburne are amongst the revels, while Tom Waits flips burgers at the local diner.

Immortals 2011 ***


Tarsem Singh Dhandwar’s previous films are a mixed bag; style over content doesn’t begin to describe the extravagances of 2001’s The Cell, a thriller so garish and gaudy that Ken Russell might have wanted to turn down the brightness. Singh is a good match for today’s CGI uproar, and 2011’s The Immortals gives him something worth chewing on; Greek mythology filtered through Hollywood moonshine. Henry Cavill does his usual cow-eyed shtick as Theseus, who seeks vengeance from Hyperion (Mickey Rourke in a jackal mask) for the murder of his mother, with sidekick Stavros (Stephen Dorff) along for the ride and live commentary from Old Man (John Hurt).  Any film that features Luke Evans as Zeus has a credibility issue, but Singh slathers the whole confection in eye-popping visuals a la 300, and the fight-scenes are as beautifully executed as most of the willing cast

Barfly 1987 ***


Poet, author and full time boozer, Charles Bukowski’s work has, not surprisingly, been hard to adapt for the screen; this 1987 production, directed by Barbet Schroeder, features a script that could only be written by Bukowski. Mickey Rourke plays Henry Chinaski, an LA –based writer who props up bars all over the city, and who has a difficult relationship with fellow soak Wanda (Faye Dunaway). Made as part of the Golan Globus break for credibility via serious movies, partnered here with Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope production company, Barfly is a very, very dark portrait of creativity and alcoholism, rendered vividly by Rourke and Dunaway. Supporting casts don’t get much more eclectic than Frank Stallone, Eraserhead’s Jack Nance, and Alice Krige. Barfly isn’t a lot of laughs, but it’s a good introduction to Bukowski.

Year of the Dragon 1985 ***


Michael Cimino recovered from the poetic excess of Heaven’s Gate to essay this terse, controversial police drama, which deals with racism by having the hero, Stanley White (Mickey Rourke) as a confirm racist. With Oliver Stone as co-writer, Cimino portrays White as carrying baggage from his Vietnam experiences into his work as a New York Cope, tackling John Lone’s Mafia leader Joey Tai is a series of bloody confrontations. The domestic scenes between White and his wife Connie (Caroline Kava) are equally powerful, and Year of The Dragon is a potent and troubling character study as well as an efficient, no-holds-barred policier.

Angel Heart 1987 ****


Alan Parker got a career best performance from Mickey Rourke as shambolic private-eye Harry Angel in this intense thriller from 1987. Favourite is pressed into service for Louis Cyphre (Robert de Niro), a saturnine presence who wants to retrieve a mysterious something from a crooner called Johnny Favourite. Louis is the devil, and that something is a soul, and Parker’s New Orleans’ set metaphysical thriller depicts Angel’s investigation as a one way ticket to hell and back.  Skipping some of the more humorous touches of William Hjortsberg’s novel Falling Angel, Angel Heart is a vicious, beautiful, profound yet pulpy cinema experience, with a underlying gravity that’s deeply untypical of the time when it was made.