Directed by Mike Hodges
Based on the Novel by Jack Higgins
– Mickey Rourke as Martin Fallon
– Bob Hoskins as Father Da Costa
– Alan Bates as Jack Meehan
– Sammi Davis as Anna
Jonny is scared of the Irish…
Watching this movie you just start to trip out on Mickey Rourke.Â What on earth happened? First of all, could his face has changed that muchÂ in sixteen years? Again, what happened? Not that I think his talentsÂ have diminished orÂ anything like that, but this guy was on top of it all. Nowadays… IÂ remember watching an episode of HBO’s really bad Project GreenÂ Light and the incredibly lame directors were told by the equallyÂ lame casting guy that basically serious Hollywood folk don’t workÂ with Mickey Rourke. And they wanted him to play a busted-up, down onÂ his luck, alcoholic dad. It was all moot because Mickey never would have appeared in the saccharine pile of crap Project GreenÂ Light pooped out. But as I was saying, Mickey, baby, you couldÂ have had it all…
A Prayer For The Dying features what might very well be theÂ most effective opening scene in all of cinema. Practically nothing isÂ said, yet as the viewer you know exactly what is happening. ItÂ perfectly sets up the rest of the film. What happens? A ragged bandÂ of IRA punks in Northern Ireland have a bomb rigged to go off whenÂ some British Army jeeps drive by on patrol. Unexpectedly, andÂ unfortunately, a school bus carrying about a dozen 10-year-old girlsÂ passes the army vehicles. Kaboom. Both Rourke and his best friendÂ Docherty (Liam Neeson) are disgusted by their misstep.
Rourke’s character, Martin Fallon, flees to London where he is forcedÂ to commit a murder in order to get himself a passport and some cashÂ and get the fuck out of dodge. The British want him as a terrorist,Â the IRA as a traitor. One last killing seems like a good idea, givenÂ the circumstances. Only trouble is, as he is committing the finalÂ act, a priest (Bob Hoskins) witnesses everything. Trust me, it allÂ makes sense, as the hit is going down in a church cemetery. FallonÂ and Father Da Costa form an interesting relationship. Fallon wantsÂ nothing else to reform but he is a bit too worldly for God, while DaÂ Costa, who himself had something of an unsavory past, wants nothingÂ more than to save Fallon’s soul.
The high point of the film for me was the performance turned in byÂ Alan Bates as Jack Meehan, a treacherous crime boss and funeral homeÂ owner. He of course uses his crematory for no good ends, that part isÂ obvious. What isn’t obvious is how nuanced a character Bates givesÂ us. Meehan is cruel to a fault, yet sophisticated, gentile almost. HeÂ is eccentric without being ridiculous. Very much like the performanceÂ Ian McShane turned in as Teddy Bass in the great SexyÂ Beast. Though, as bad as Bates plays Meehan, Teddy is a bitÂ more evil. Regardless, Bates alone makes the movie worth watching.
Everyone else is pretty damn fine, too. I mentioned Rourke alreadyÂ and he does do a wonderful job. Even his accent is pretty good. HeÂ could have been the next De Niro. Bob Hoskins is really good as aÂ priest with a little bit of anger management issue. Even Neeson isÂ pretty OK in a rare role as a baddie. Also, Bates surrounds himselfÂ with some marvelous tough guys. Real scum who look scary, not like aÂ bunch of pussy actors. Look for the bald guy who shivs another guy’sÂ hands to a wall. The female lead is the blind niece of Father DaÂ Costa who of course falls in love with bad boy Rourke. While it is anÂ odd love story, it is believable. The actress, Sammi Davis, does aÂ convincing job.
A Prayer For The Dying is a good, solid, thinking man’s actionÂ flick, especially compared to the garbage Hollywood was pouring out back in 1987.Â Sure, metaphysical questions are tackled, but bombs stillÂ manage to blow up, guns find a way to get fired and boobs areÂ squeezed. Rourke is excellent, and you see now why people are soÂ upset by his fall from grace. His street cred is still high. If youÂ want a fucked up hard-ass in your film, you look for Mickey. Also, hisÂ once dreamy looks, while very much present andÂ in full force in this film, have given way to a harder, almostÂ damaged exterior. Here, Rourke is in his prime. This one was madeÂ after Rumble Fish but before Wild Orchid. Rourke willÂ still from time to time turn in a good performance (The Pledge,Â Buffalo 66), more often than not, however, you will find himÂ being the only redeeming quality in otherwise horrid tripe (Spun,Â OnceÂ Upon A Time In Mexico). Overwrought ending aside, A PrayerÂ For The Dying might be his best work. (I’m kidding, we all knowÂ it’s Barfly.)