My 5 Favorite Mickey Rourke Performances

Mickey Rourke is one of my favorite actors of all time and I think he is quite an underrated actor who deserves more praise than he actually gets. I was running a Mickey Rourke double-feature two days ago and I thought to myself, “Why haven’t I made a list of my favorite Rourke films on my blog yet?” Today I decided to do it for good. Making this list wasn’t easy. There are two films that almost made the list but I didn’t really appreciate those films as a whole. They are Rumble Fish and Johnny Handsome. The first one was too much style over substance and the second, well, it’s plot went downhill in the second half.

The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984)

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Synopsis: Cousins Paulie (Eric Roberts) and Charlie (Mickey Rourke) plan to rob a merchant in the New York City neighborhood that’s home to the restaurant where they work. When their scheme results in the death of a police officer and draws the ire of the Mafia-linked businessman who was ripped off, Charlie’s girlfriend (Daryl Hannah) bolts, and mob henchmen exact a brutal price from Paulie. With the mob threatening to kill them, the thieves must think fast if they intend to survive.

My Review: I love films that feature Italian-American characters especially those set in New York. This is one of my favorite New York films. There is not much of a plot in this film but it’s the performances that stand out. Rourke and the underrated Eric Roberts share such a fantastic chemistry and made me wish they both did a serious film together again. It’s a pity that Roberts was never given solid roles like this after the 80s.

Barfly (1987)

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From left: Faye Dunaway, Charles Bukowski and Mickey Rourke

Synopsis: Down-and-out writer Henry Chinaski (Mickey Rourke) spends his nights drinking and picking brawls at a dingy Los Angeles watering hole. One night Henry spies a kindred spirit in pretty barfly Wanda (Faye Dunaway) and, despite warning signs that she may be unfaithful, shacks up with the woman. When Henry’s fears are confirmed by Wanda’s infidelity with bartender Eddie (Frank Stallone), he begins an affair of his own with wealthy publisher Tully Sorenson (Alice Krige).

My review: All I am going to say is that if you are a fan of Charles Bukowski, you’ll love this film more than the others because the character that Rourke plays is based on him. It is endlessly quotable (my favorite is “Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead”) and Rourke’s character is quite very relatable The film also gave Faye Dunaway one of her finest roles.

Year of the Dragon (1985)

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Synopsis: In New York, racist Capt. Stanley White (Mickey Rourke) becomes obsessed with destroying a Chinese-American drug ring run by Joey Tai (John Lone), an up-and-coming young gangster as ambitious as he is ruthless. While pursuing an unauthorized investigation, White grows increasingly willing to violate police protocol, resorting to progressively violent measures — even as his concerned wife, Connie (Caroline Kava), and his superiors beg him to consider the consequences of his actions.

My review: The only Michael Cimino film that I really liked. The story moves along with a furious pace and behaves like a ticking time bomb that’s going to explode any minute. The characters are super intense with Rourke playing one of the toughest characters ever to grace the silver screen. Quentin Tarantino once said of the film: “I forgot to breathe during the climactic shootout.” I’m inclined to agree with him.

The Wrestler (2008)

The Wrestler Mickey Rourke

Synopsis: Aging wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) is long past his prime but still ready and rarin’ to go on the pro-wrestling circuit. After a particularly brutal beating, however, Randy hangs up his tights, pursues a serious relationship with a long-in-the-tooth stripper (Marisa Tomei), andtries to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood). But he can’t resist the lure of the ring and readies himself for a comeback.

My review: A solid film from Darren Aronofsky. This was one hell of a comeback for Rourke and his performance reminds you once again how good he used to be at one point. One scene in particular brought tears to my eyes. One of the best films made about self-destruction. It’s kind of sad to see him look completely different and almost unrecognizable today.

Sin City (2005)

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Synopsis: In this quartet of neo-noir tales, a mysterious salesman (Josh Hartnett) narrates a tragic story of co-dependency, while a musclebound vigilante (Mickey Rourke) tears his way through the criminal underworld in search of his lost love (Jaime King). In another part of the city, a grizzled cop (Bruce Willis) foils the ambitions of a child-killer (Nick Stahl), and an ex-prostitute (Brittany Murphy) evades her ex-pimp (Benicio Del Toro) with the help of her new boyfriend, Dwight (Clive Owen).

My review: Of all the graphic novel adaptations, this one stands on top for me. A visual tour-de-force from Robert Rodriguez, this one is mostly remembered for the badass character Marv played by Rourke. Maybe I should’ve called this his comeback role but I went with The Wrestler because he was not really the lead character in this one. It’s a shame the sequel didn’t live up to the original but it’s worth watching for Rourke alone. The sequel actually brought back memories of his Motorcycle Boy from Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish, in which his look was modeled on Marlon Brando’s in The Wild One. 

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