Bulletproof Heart

By David Sturm, Copyright 1996

"Bulletproof Heart," a tasty little film noir, dropped through the cracks shortly after it appeared last year. It's worth seeking out on video.

It has flaws and would be easy to overpraise, but "Bulletproof Heart" does serve up a sinister cocktail with a twist.

Anthony LaPaglia is a veteran hit man named Mick who is called upon by his gangland superior, played by Peter Boyle, to kill a woman who is not only deeply in debt to the mob but has announced she is turning states' evidence the following morning. It's a red ball rubout that must be done immediately.

The twist is that she wants to be killed and intends to give the hitman a gracious welcome to her home. In fact, the welcome extends also to her bed.

This enigmatic woman, who ends up leaving every man in the movie utterly discombobulated, is played by the enormously soulful Mimi Rogers ("The Rapture").

The heart of the movie, which unfolds in a single night, is the evolving relationship between LaPaglia and his intended victim. The hit man is by stages wary, intrigued, fascinated, and in love.

Tension builds as the deadline for the killing approaches. Will LaPaglia get cold feet? Boyle (who is also in love with her) keeps popping up to provide pep talks.

"Just take her over to Jersey and shoot her. It's what she wants," he importunes.

Complicating the whole affair is the presence of LaPaglia's nudnick of a sidekick, Archie, a hit man wannabe played by Matt Craven. There's a funny flashback to an assassination that turned into a fiasco because of Archie's incompetence.

These four people, plus a cameo by Joseph Mayer as an alcoholic psychoanalyst who explains that Rogers is suicidal because of a debilitating mental illness, carry the whole 98-minute movie.

"Bulletproof Heart" by first-time director Mark Malone follows in the footsteps of Mike Figgis' "Stormy Monday," Lawrence Kasdan's "Body Heat" and John Dahl's "Red Rock West" as a meritorious debut effort in the noir mode.

It will be interesting to see what Malone tackles next.

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