A Prayer for Your Troubles
The luck of the Irish was not visited upon A Prayer for the Dying (1987), a moody and violent tone poem about an Irish Republican Army hitman (Mickey Rourke) whose conscience compels him to quit the IRA after a bombing incident kills notcombatant innocents but is strong-armed into “one last job” of killing that is unintentionally witnessed by a local priest (Bob Hoskins). In the eyes of director Mike Hodges (Get Carter, Croupier), this adaptation of Jack Higgins’ best-seller (scripted by Edmund Ward and Martin Lynch) was intended as a study of a tortured soul resisting absolution and renouncing redemption, not principally an attempt to whitewash or humanize a terrorist organization. But for producers Samuel Goldwyn Jr. and Peter Snell, it was a $6-million thriller with name actors (Alan Bates as a ruthless gangster, Liam Neeson as an IRA compatriot, Sammi Davis as the priest's vulnerable daughter and Alison Doody as a chilling assassin) that needed “tightening” after Hodges delivered his cut in February. Thus, a film set amid the Irish troubles became troubled itself, as the director and soon afterward marquee stars Rourke, Hoskins and Bates repudiated the film upon its U.S. release that September, with three minutes trimmed and a more romantic and sentimental score by American Bill Conti (Rocky, The Right Stuff) substituted for the more lilting and melancholy original track by Englishman John Scott (Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, The Shooting Party). Though its director has lobbied over the years to have his original cut restored, only the release version survives, and despite its indifferent critical and audience reception in theatres, the film enjoyed a substantial afterlife on home video and cable and ultimately found a measure of appreciation for its committed performances, particularly that of then rising stars Rourke, Hoskins and Neeson, as well as its compelling fatalistic temperament. As a Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray, A Prayer for the Dying also features new interviews with still-contentious helmer Hodges and director of photography Mike Garfath telling their sides of the tangled tale. Has nearly three decades of distance mellowed the troubles of this intriguing portrait of a loner convinced he’s out of options but whom one dedicated cleric resolutely believes to be worthy of rescue? Say a prayer for its arrival on April 12. Preorders open March 30.