Kathy On Mickey

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Here's a sampler of my write-ups and movie perspectives originally posted at The Bad-Boy Mickey Rourke Website.

Cool Resurrected

Mickey Rourke is an ingenious player on film who's talent transcends review, critique or interpretation. He possesses unique abilities all his own which are impossible to define. This alone is both a blessing and a curse for the man inside the actor. His confidence is sensually intimidating. His cockiness is sexually enticing. His attitude is explosive and magnetic in front as well as behind the camera. He is among the last of a dying breed.

Some have labeled Rourke "the new James Dean," or "the thin Brando." Truth is, he can't be categorized or compared to anyone who still claims acting as a career. His body of work is far too diverse to be placed into a single category. Those who can be classified simply would be out of of his league and pale in the comparison. Acclaimed acting coach Lee Strasberg stated "He's a shoe-in!," after seeing for himself what Rourke had to offer the craft. His style of artistry and projection is a rare gift that has been stifled by the mainstream far too long.

What he lacks in accolades, awards and recognition, Rourke more than makes up in the kind of pure raw genius that cannot be learned, copied, bought or concocted. He has taken a beating in print for several years now. Shamelessly debased, underrated and overlooked. He often beats himself up as well with brutal honesty in retrospect. It isn't easy to roll with the kind of punches he has taken unscathed but he doesn't bother to overly apologize or explain his actions. Mickey Rourke is the walking definition of what has been labeled "bad-ass," yet there's still a little boy inside the the man who grew up hard and way too fast. Unjustly misunderstood, discredited and dismissed for well over a decade. Criticism is no stranger to the free-spirited rebel from the mean streets who sometimes seems to feed off wreck-less abandon. Mickey Rourke is basically a working class anti-hero who has been known more often than not to be a willing victim of wine, women, song, boxing, bikes and less than perfect judgment calls. He attempted to make up for lost time on the playground in extreme quantities at break-neck speed. He has been crucified in the media for his past actions.

Recently, he seems to have graduated from the school of hard knocks and defiance. He's older and wiser. The lessons he has learned have left scars he not only wears on his face, but on his heart as well. They tell a story of struggle, winning and losing, but his eyes are still shining bright. His face is still beautiful. His work is not over. He still has untapped brilliance that should be recognized and appreciated. The up-hill battle is finally ready to be won. I plan to be there to cheer on the once again victor who has mesmerized me since the early '80s when he jumped-started my passion and never-ending admiration that can only be deemed, MICKEY!

 Rourke's latest film Sin City will be released in 2005. He is cast as "Marv" in the starring role. It's already receiving critical acclaim. Congratulations; best wishes; and good luck Mickey. You deserve it!

My Film Critiques 

BODY HEAT

by Kathy Thompson

It was the early '80s...and all that implies.  At that point in his life, young Mickey Rourke was a struggling actor, barely getting by working several odd jobs on Hollywood Boulevard and dreaming of being discovered.  His agent advised him to be patient and wait.  He did...but he didn't have to wait long before director Lawrence Kasdan sent in a casting director who showed Rourke a copy of his script.  As Rourke reflects in author Bart Mills' book, Mickey Rourke:  An Illustrated Biography, "My role in Body Heat wasn't that big," he says, "At the time I could have gotten bigger roles, but it was something I could get into...so I took it."  In the Special Features on the Angel Heart Special Edition Anniversary DVD, Rourke further recalls, "I think I was bouncing in a transvestite nightclub, and I'd taken the afternoon off to meet this casting lady, right...and there was some dialog; and I read the stuff for her...and she asked me to come in again.  I did, and it was pretty simple.  She hired me.  It was the first job I ever had."

Body Heat is the overture of the directional works of renowned screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan.  (The Empire of the Sun; Return of the Jedi; Raiders of the Lost Ark; for high-end directors such as George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.)  At this, his first crack at the bat as director, Kasdan also penned the script for this superbly crafted and engrossing story...a sultry and seductive one of a kind thriller.  Body Heat is a cleverly stylish film with high-profile credits and well-defined characters in the tradition of the 40's classics such as Double Indemnity.  This steamy piece was inspired by classic film noir but rebirths the erotic thriller in a much more contemporary fashion than it had been represented on screen, before it's release.  Kasdan took the risk of showing crime, scandal and blackmail in a  whole new light by reworking the noirish drama to fit into the retrospective 80's.  He further adapted the tale into modern standards by conveying a kind of sexually explicit ambiance that was extremely risqué at the time, but caught on fast and continues to endure significantly today.  Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times and syndicated critic said, "It has the power that transcends it's sources.  Body Heat is good enough to make film noir play like we haven't seen it before."  The movie also bares an uncanny resemblance to The Last Seduction, a 90's version of the genre which also was faithfully true to the concept years later.

This 1981 film tells the story of a con-artist, white collar fare, where the viewer can actually see the 'lawyer' as the scoundrel his is.  Ned Raccine is played by William Hurt, which some consider to be his most memorable role,  portrays a less-than-brilliant, 2-bit, small town Florida lawyer, with a less than spotless trial record, with minuscule numbers in the win column.  Raccine's small, blue collar client pool is due to his bad luck, cocky demeanor and notorious incompetence.  The moderately successful womanizer falls hard and fast for Matty Walker, portrayed by Kathleen Turner, an unhappily married socialite, who's unscrupulous businessman husband bores and cannot satisfy her greed.  Richard Crenna's (Rambo) performance as the boring husband, helped the actor re-launch his staggering career.  Soon Hurt's character is quickly coerced and drawn into a deadly wicked web of deceit, spun by the selfish depraved Matty Walker.  Ned is naive and spellbound as this seductress easily manipulates him into acting on her evil impulses.

Body Heat marks the on-screen acting debut of Kathleen Turner, her aforementioned character can be described as an extremely attractive, emotionally void and sexually insatiable seductress, with her now notorious deep, raspy voice.  Turner seemed destined to portray the femme fatale` without effort.  She depicts the cold and calculating personality with ease and perfection, making her an impressive sinister, man-eater, motivated by lust and greed.  Matty is a cold-hearted, calculating bombshell, who is scheming the perfect and heartless scam with reckless abandon.

After the provocative vixen snags her romantic conquest effortlessly, Matty begins seducing her prey with perspiration-soaked chemistry between Hurt and Turner, who's love scenes caused quite a stir circa 1981.  The physical attraction is so strong and powerful, he loses himself completely to it and throws a chair through her front window, determined to have her then and there.  He whisks her upstairs and takes her.  What occurs from there between them is so hot, steamy and combustible, it's far beyond control.  Not even the bathtub filled with ice could cool down the overwhelming sexual lust and mutual appetite for each other.  Turner's character soon cleverly manipulates the mesmerized attorney into helping her devise a plan to destroy the only obstacle in the way of their perpetual bliss...her husband, a local businessman with shady connections.  Ned (Hurt) can only envision him through Matty's (Turner) eyes, which paints an interpretive painting of a selfish, mean and neglectfully abusive, arrogant bastard, just begging for an early, yet timely demise.  Later, using the inheritance to finance their 'happily ever after' ending.  Soon, a master-plan is concocted to eliminate him from the equation, which allows his widow to collect a hefty insurance claim guaranteed to pave the way to their story-book scenario.  It's perfect UNTIL the aftermath of the diabolical crime turns sour when they become the principal suspects in the murder investigation.  Damaging evidence continues to mount as the clues begin to pop up everywhere and eventually into the very hands of Raccine's two best buddies...one, a local police detective, the other, a local district attorney.

Also in their first feature film, were Mickey Rourke and Ted Danson, delivering fine secondary/co-staring roles.  Danson portrays Raccine's pal and friendly local district attorney.  This role jump-started Danson's career and laid the foundation that lead him to fame in an eventual TV career (Cheers, Benson) and on the big screen as well.  But, it is Rourke who takes center stage among the supported players in spite of his lack of screen time.  Freelance, syndicated reviewer, Jeff Shannon comments: "Mickey Rourke is simply splendid in this memorable role."  Rourke plays 'Ted Lewis' a street-wise client, wire-bomb expert, arsonist and parolee, who Ned reaches out to for assistance in wiring up an explosion effective and deadly enough to destroy his lover's husband's warehouse and end his life as well.  Teddy (Rourke) tries without success to discourage Ned from going through with the less than perfect plan.

In this, his breakthrough role, instead of playing Teddy Lewis as the ordinarily generic petty criminal, Mickey Rourke made quite a statement, evolving his character into the most intriguing cast member in the film, making both the movie-making moguls as well as the critics alike remember his face.  While most bit-parts are hardly renowned for being star-makers, Rourke delivered rough dialog through his smooth, soft voice that "immediately established him as an actor drawn to ambiguity," according to Mills, making himself a future force to be reckoned with in the industry.  Mickey Rourke was only in two scenes, but they were very well written and even better played.  This gave the initial indication that it mattered not how long or how high the level, each scene featuring Rourke, belonged to Rourke.  The part was an integral footnote to the main plot.  People took note.  Dragon Antulov (multi-published reviewer) in the All Review Movie/Video Review 11/3/1998: "The best side roles the one made by a young Mickey Rourke as a petty criminal who seems to have more common sense than his supposedly smarter and more educated lawyer."

"Hey!  No smokin' in here!"  Teddy (Rourke) warns his friend Raccine; as Bob Segar's Feel Like a Number blasts from the speakers in his arsenal lab/digs as he mimes along with the tune.  "Any time you try a decent crime, you got 50 ways you could fuck up.  If you think of 25 of 'em, then you are a genius, and you ain't no genius."  Teddy tries in vain to reason with the desperate attorney that had previously defended him successfully.  "Aren't you listening to me asshole?  Because I like you.  I got a serious question for you.  What the fuck are you doing?  This is not shit for you to be messing with."

Pauline Kael wrote in The New Yorker of how rare Rourke's minor role was "considerably livelier" from the norm.  "You better watch your step," as Teddy forewarns the unsuspecting Ned first with the notion that Matty (Turner) is in this strictly for selfish reasons...cluing Ned in on his co-conspirator's true motive and agenda...and the initial assumption he was being had by the vixen who secretly plots the murder of her wealthy, boring and unscrupulous spouse.

As Janet Masline of the New York Times concluded with her take on the film: "It can lay claim to textbook perfection."  Body Heat is a slick, steamy tale of adulteress lust in a neo-noir fashion, borderline sympathetic criminals on the run...dodging capture.  The film splendidly represents it's genre with divine expertise.  In spite it's modest success at the box office, it is a shining example of the use of an erotic-based technique, spinning sensational plot twists and turns involving moral corruption with sexual lust.  While Body Heat cooks up the ultimate recipe for disaster, it also delivers reoccurring hints of comic relief through the irony of it all.  The sensually toned atmosphere and sexually charged ambiance is sharp, clever and guarantees the first time viewer will be shocked by the unexpected outcome.

 

This Pope...No Artificial Inspiration

by Kathy Thompson

Director Stuart Rosenberg, along with the un-credited assistance of Michael Cimino, spins this charming tale of the misadventures of two in-debt, out-of-work cousins in NYC's Little Italy. Originally entitled Village Dreams, The Pope of Greenwich Village was inspired by Vincent Patrick's 1979 book.

While seemingly scripted solely for Mickey Rourke to portray, Rourke was not the first actor approached to play "Charlie Moran," a smooth-talking hustler who struggles with his inability to separate himself from his ever-bumbling cousin "Paulie." Robert DeNiro was first in line, but backed out.  Al Pacino  was slated to play opposite of the "Charlie" role, as "Paulie." He too, backed out.  Why?  Pacino considered Rourke, "too young" to pull-off his counterpart in this off-beat, on-screen character study. He was, however, most definitely wrong. Rourke's portrayal of "Charlie" was absolutely fascinating and enriched with dazzling insight. Playing this character was hardly a stretch for Rourke considering the role touched on a persona the actor naturally owned. Rourke acknowledges he could've "turned out just like 'Charlie' more likely than not."  In the irony of it all, and the complications, it worked and it worked well. 

Enter Eric Roberts who portrays "Paulie," a perpetual screw-up who is the walking definition of everything "Charlie" wants to escape in his mundane life.  Even though Rourke continually avoids the viewing of his own performances, and is often critical of his co-stars, he remains incessantly pleased by Pope and seemingly looks for opportunities to applaud the underrated talent of his co-star Roberts.  As a result, with the admirable breakthrough performances of these two, overflowing with an amazing amount of on-screen chemistry, The Pope of Greenwich Village is even more enchanting to watch today -- more than 20 years following it's theatrical debut --  through the comedic misfortunes that constantly occur in between these two characters. The Pope, and the star himself, were ahead of their time by most standards. In retrospect, Mickey Rourke later questioned the editing process for the modest dollar amount earned at the box office. While overlooked by mainstream audiences and critics alike...hind-sight is 20/20. The Los Angeles Times gave a stunning review of the film saying it was "Explosively funny. Tautly dangerous. Absolutely irresistible."

"Charlie" is torn between his native street-wise roots and his wasp-ish girlfriend (played by Daryl Hannah), who has just informed him she is expecting his second child. Charlie already had one child, "Rudy," whom he rarely sees, with his hard-to-deal-with ex-wife, "Cookie," who repeatedly gets parking tickets and mails them to her ex to pay. Still, "Charlie" will not abandon his dreams of opening up his own restaurant.  When "Paulie" gets the inside scoop on a sure-thing race-horse and a tip on access to $150,000 from a safe in a small company,  they enlist the assistance of ex-con safe cracker "Barney" (Kenneth McMillan), to steal the loot.  In the process, a tumultuous turn occurs when they find themselves in serious hot water in the aftermath of the botched robbery.  The scam goes wrong when a corrupt cop with the same agenda is accidentally killed in the attempt. They soon find themselves on the run from not only the cops seeking retribution for their fellow fallen officer, but the trio is also sought out by local mob boss "Bed Bug Eddie," played by Burt Young (Rocky), who turns out to be the victim of the heist. The plot continues to thicken when they learn they are sought-out by "Eddie" with such a great vengeance, their mobster uncle can't even help them escape their fate of certain doom.

The Pope of Greenwich Village is more than a comedy-drama gangster story with a heavy cult following. It has a light-hearted perspective capable of producing tears of laughter. It is also a gripping and an unpredictable feature film which is geographically and historically faithful. Roger Ebert, acclaimed film critic with The Chicago Sun Times, calls The Pope, "A very ethnic behavior film."  It is a fine-tuned new-age period piece right down to the soundtrack -- complete with Sinatra, of course.