An introduction to the above video:
A few months ago, I finally got around to watching Rumble Fish for the first time. It's a compelling film in a number of ways, not least of which is that it captures Francis Ford Coppola, after all his big successes, making a movie that has the intimacy, edginess and roughhewn aesthetics of a filmmaker just starting out. But the core power of the film is Mickey Rourke, as the drifting, elusive and lonely Motorcycle Boy. Coppola knew it. Rumble Fish is dominated by close-ups of Rourke's face, his soulful charisma splashed across the screen.
To that point, Rourke had appeared in supporting roles in Heaven's Gate and Body Heat, and he'd starred in Diner, but this was just the beginning. He was still breaking out, reminding so many of a young Marlon Brando with his combination of throbbing male sexuality, simmering aggression, feminine sensitivity and an apparent disdain for straightforward line readings.
Somehow or another the can't-miss star wound up spending most of his career in what many would consider B movies. Alcohol and drugs took their toll. Plastic surgery drastically changed his appearance. He fell in love with boxing. He was, by his own admission, impossible to deal with on movie sets, and as a result he wasn't invited to many. But that soulful charisma never really went away, and eventually it shined through again, in small parts first, like 2001's The Pledge, and eventually in The Wrestler, his big, beautiful, quasi-autobiographical return to glory.
I'd seen the bookends of Rourke's career, but there was a lot I hadn't seen in the middle, so I decided to go on a Mickey Rourke binge, watching almost every movie he's ever been in, whether he starred or showed up for a few scenes.
I wasn't stringent about it. For example, I gave Double Team only the passing attention that a Jean-Claude Van Damme/Dennis Rodman movie deserves, and I lasted just 25 minutes before bailing on Francesco, which has to be in the conversation for one of the worst movies of all time to star two eventual Oscar nominees (Rourke and Helena Bonham-Carter), resorting to fast-forward scanning the rest of the way just in case Rourke's Francis of Assisi ended up in a wild sex romp — beacuse with Mickey you couldn't count it out.
Yes, as expected, many of the movies in the midsection of Rourke's career are awful. But at some point or another in almost every single one of them Rourke had a habit of making them worth watching.
The result of my Rourke binge is the above montage, which aims not to capture Rourke's greatest hits but to try to evoke his career, both cinematically and contextually. It's a tribute to Rourke, who even today, his 60th birthday, has beautifully expressive eyes that sparkle in a way that few actors have ever matched.
Rourke manages to wear sunglasses in most movies, as if he can't quite bear to see the world through the naked eye, but those lenses are also protective, too. To look Rourke straight in the eyes is to be blinded by his presence.
With that, I give you, Mickey Rourke: Highs & Lows.