If you're familiar with Mickey Rourke, you know him as the guy who has had a lot of plastic surgery and happened to steal the show with his performance in Sin City. But I'm telling you, Mickey Rourke was wrecking shit in the '80s. The guy put together a string of performances that were exceptional before a combination of boxing and bad movies in the '90s destroyed him. So I'm here to turn you kids on to his body of work in the '80s. Why? Because this shit is important, and you need to know it.
Rumble Fish - 1983
"If you're going to lead people, you have to have somewhere to go."
Stylish movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola starring Matt Dillon, Dennis Hopper, Nicolas Cage and an eminently hittable Diane Lane. Based on the book by S.E. Hinton with music by Stewart Copeland of The Police. The film is in black and white except for the Siamese fighting fish that play a prominent role.
Dillon is trying to emulate former gang leader Rourke, but Rourke has been to California and come back changed. He sees where Dillon is headed in his cramped surroundings and tries to lead him out. The fish serve as a metaphor for this.
Here's the video for Copeland's "Don't Box Me In."
The Pope of Greenwich Village - 1984
"Italians they outgrow clothes not people."
Very underrated movie. Rourke with Eric Roberts, Darryl Hannah and Burt Young. Rourke and Roberts play cousins, and Roberts comes up with a plan to make it big by robbing a safe and investing the money in a racehorse. Roberts neglects to mention that the safe is owned by mobster Young.
It's about two guys who want to make it big, but they can't see anything further than their family and neighborhood. And Eric Roberts has a perm.
Year of the Dragon - 1985
"You people, you think that gambling, extortion, corruption are kosher because it’s a thousand years old? Well, all this thousand year old stuff; it’s a lot of shit to me. This is America you’re living in, and its two hundred years old, so you better get your clocks fixed."
Directed by Michael Chimino with the screenplay co-written by Oliver Stone. Rourke plays a 40ish Polish-American police captain who tries to clean up the criminal element in New York City's Chinatown. Great supporting role by John Lone.
Angel Heart - 1987
"The flesh is weak, Johnny. Only the soul is immortal. And yours belongs to me."
You've probably heard of this movie as the one where that Cosby Show kid shows her tits. It also has Robert De Niro as the devil. Rourke plays a detective hired by De Niro to find a guy who owes him a debt. Each witness he talks to ends up dead, and he becomes the suspect in their deaths. Voodoo, satanism and a plot twist at the end keep things interesting.
Barfly - 1987
"Anyone can get a job. It takes a real man to make it without working."
Semi-autobiographical account of author Charles Bukowski's life in Los Angeles. Rourke is fantastic as the drunken Henry. Also stars Faye Dunaway as his slumming girlfriend.
Here is an extended scene with Rourke and Frank Stallone. You get to see just how good Rourke's performance is, and it's also worth watching just to hear what he says about Stallone's mother.
Homeboy - 1988
"I am two things at once - a cowboy and a boxer, and some say I am three things - a fool as well."
Rourke actually wrote the script for this, and it also stars a before-he-became-a-parody-of-himself Christopher Walken. Rourke is a washed up boxer who is exploited by Walken. I think Rourke embraced this role a little too well and it ended up spilling over into this real life. Eric Clapton did the sountrack.
Johnny Handsome - 1989
"I know what you are, and we both know where you're going, don't we Johnny?"
Directed by Walter Hill who directed other super cool movies Streets of Fire, 48 Hours, The Warriors, Southern Comfort and Hard Times. Great cast including Morgan Freeman, Ellen Barkin, Forest Whitaker and Lance Henriksen. Soundtrack by Ry Cooder.
Rourke looks like a cross between the Elephant Man and that dude on the television version of Beauty and the Beast in this. His best friend gets killed and he gets left for dead in a robbery double cross. After getting his face fixed in prison, he seeks revenge.
Now there's two movies of his I didn't write about. I didn't mention Diner (1982) because I refuse to acknowledge Paul Reiser either in word or print, and I didn't mention Nine 1/2 Weeks (1986) because every dude over 30 has already spanked it multiple times to that movie.