New York private detective Harry Angel is hired by the mysterious Louis Cyphre to find a missing person. His routine failure soon leads to a bloody spar with himself, as he goes on a supernatural journey into his own soul.
"Harry Angel" (Mickey O'Rourke) lives a pretty hand-to-mouth existence as a New York PI when he is hired to track down a musician named "Johnny Favorite". Now this fella really doesn't want to be found, and after a while our street-smart investigator begins to contemplate that maybe this search isn't really all that his employer "Louis Cyphre" (a Rasputin-esque Robert De Niro) has in mind. As the search becomes more intricate, "Angel" finds himself having doors slammed in his face, or even worse before he is immersed in a world of voodoo in a distinctly unwelcoming New Orleans. Corpses are starting to pile up and "Angel" is starting to get cold feet. Can he stay the course and discover the whereabouts of his quarry? Can he also discover quite why the enigmatic "Cyphre" wanted him on the case in the first place? This is one of those whodunit's where the quest itself is not one of the more riveting parts of the plot. "Angel" has an ability to turn almost everyone he sees into metaphorical stone - including Charlotte Rampling's rather mysterious "Margaret" - what's going on? Alan Parker keeps the Hjortsberg story moving along quite faithfully to the book, allowing us to gradually get a sense that all is not as it seems, that poor old "Angel" is being manipulated and that things are probably not going to end well for him! O'Rourke carries that off really well - he injects a swarthiness and grit to his character who clearly isn't quite as hard as he would like people to think, and De Niro - though infrequently on screen - also manages to create that slight sense of malevolence as the penny begins to drop for all watching. It's a bit slow out of the gate, but it does build well to a denouement that is amongst the best in this extensive genre.